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Hockey: Irish scramble to fill holes in lineup

Isaac Lorton | Thursday, November 21, 2013

With a depleted roster, the No. 6 Irish look to overcome reigning Hockey East conference champion No. 13 UMass-Lowell in a two-game weekend series at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Mass.

Notre Dame (8-3-1, 2-1-1 Hockey East) will travel to Lowell missing five of its regulars, including four forwards. On the offensive side, freshman Vince Hinostroza, sophomores Thomas DiPauli and Stephen Fogarty and junior Mike Voran will be unable to play. Junior Eric Johnson will be the sole blue-liner missing the game.

“We are at the bare bones right now,” Jackson said. “We are travelling with everyone that is healthy. … We played three lines all Friday [against Merrimack], it’s not going to be possible this weekend. We can’t. There are no TV timeouts Friday night, so we’re going to have to play four lines because there is not time to take a breather.”

Jackson said freshman defenseman Ben Ostlie practiced this week at right wing, freshman left-wing Ali Thomas will play at left wing, while junior walk-on Joe Aiken will get the chance to play at center on Notre Dame’s fourth line.

“Ben Ostlie, at least he has had a week to practice at forward,” Jackson said. “Ali Thomas, I am fine with. I think he has shown some positive signs. We are just going to have to see if Joey Aiken can handle the pace. That’s the biggest question.”

For the past two years, Aiken has played interhall hockey and Notre Dame club hockey. Aiken tried out for the Irish his freshman and sophomore years, but did not make the team. This year Aiken had more success and Jackson said he plans to have Aiken play against the River Hawks (8-4-0, 2-1-0).

“[Aiken] made the team for a reason,” Jackson said. “Our thoughts [on Aiken making the team] were for exactly the situation we’re in here. We’re going two forwards short from having lineup right now. … Joey Aiken was a guy that never I anticipated would probably play for us. But I never say never because you never know how a kid will develop over time.”

In addition to the thin roster, the Irish will be up against a physical UMass-Lowell team. The River Hawks made it to the Frozen Four last season and began this season ranked No. 1. UMass-Lowell returned 21 of its letter winners from the 2012-2013 season.

“They’re very strong and they’re very physical in the defensive zone,” Jackson said. “They are very difficult to play against. … So I expect that it will be a real challenge for us.”

River Hawks sophomore forward Adam Chapie and junior forward Scott Wilson share the team lead with nine points apiece. Chapie has tallied six goals and three assists this season, while Wilson has two goals and seven assists. The River Hawks have nine players with two or more goals on the season.

“In the offensive zone, they cycle the puck really well,” Jackson said. ” They are kind of like a half-court team that plays real solid defense. They are hard to play against. ”   

In a Hockey East matchup of ranked opponents, Notre Dame looks to take the two-game series at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Mass. on Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 4 p.m.

Contact Isaac Lorton at [email protected]