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Hockey: Hostile takeover

Chris Allen | Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The next chapter in a growing postseason rivalry between No. 17 Notre Dame and No. 4 Michigan will be written this weekend as the Irish travel to hostile Yost Arena to take on the Wolverines in the second round of the CCHA tournament.

The two schools have factored heavily in recent CCHA tournaments, winning five of the last seven championships dating back to 2005. The winner of this weekend’s three-game set will head to Joe Louis Arena in Detroit next weekend to play for the CCHA crown. Despite struggling through much of the second half of the season, the Irish (19-16-3, 12-13-3-0 CCHA) dominated Ohio State in a first-round sweep last weekend. Sophomore goalie Steven Summerhays posted two strong performances between the pipes and senior center Billy Maday scored three goals on the weekend to lead Notre Dame to 2-0 and 4-2 wins. Maday said the team has completely put the late-season slide behind it.

“Before, I had said we took a lot of positives from the Michigan State weekend [Feb. 24-25] and I think that continued into Ohio State weekend. The slump that we had is pretty much forgotten, the playoffs are a brand new season,” he said. “This is a new team, full of confidence and full of energy. Going into the second round, I just think you’re going to see more of that.”

Though Summerhays and junior goalie Mike Johnson have split time much of the season, the sophomore has commanded playing time with three of the last four starts, including two shutouts. Though Summerhays will face a tough test from the Wolverine attack, Irish coach Jeff Jackson said he hopes his goalie will continue his strong play.

“Steven’s last three games, he’s played consistently well,” Jackson said. “But consistency is not just a two or three-game thing. This weekend we’re going to play a goalie [Michigan senior goalie Shawn Hunwick] that plays well every night. But, Steven has played well here the last few games, and we hope we can continue to have that kind of goaltending.”

Notre Dame’s biggest obstacle in beating the Wolverines (21-11-4, 15-9-4-1) and reaching Joe Louis Arena is likely Hunwick, a 5-foot-7 former walk-on who is undisputedly one of the nations top goaltenders. Hunwick has performed well against the Irish in the past and Maday said the team will need to get physical to overcome the netminder.

“Over the past couple years, I’ve seen a lot of Hunwick, probably too much” Maday said. “Recently, he’s gotten the best of us. I think we need to create traffic. He’s not the biggest goalie in net, so if we create traffic I think we can have success. Aside from that, I think if we can get the puck up and shoot it high, upstairs, I think that might be our best shot.”

The underwhelming record for the Irish in the regular season means the team will play the second-round series in the unfavorable environment of Yost Arena. Jackson emphasized the need for the Irish to play well early in the first period to neutralize the effects of the crowd.

“We have to play smart in the first period against Michigan, especially in the first 10 minutes, because they’re all amped up, the crowd gets going, and they’re very explosive in that first 10 minutes,” Jackson said. “We have to make sure that we are composed. We have to take care of the puck and stay out of the penalty box, plain and simple.”

The puck will drop on Friday, Saturday and Sunday — if necessary — at 7:35 p.m.


Contact Chris Allen at [email protected]