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Irish head to play Merrimack

| Friday, November 14, 2014

After being swept last weekend by Minnesota, Notre Dame returns to Hockey East play against Merrimack on Friday and Saturday.

This weekend’s series marks the first time that the Irish (5-4-1, 1-0-1 Hockey East) have traveled to North Andover, Massachusetts, in nearly 23 years, and Irish coach Jeff Jackson said that he expects a raucous environment.

“We’re going from a [larger] Olympic ice sheet to a small environment,” Jackson said. “The fans will be on top of us and I guess from what I heard, their president said it’s the biggest weekend in Merrimack athletics history. They’re a small Catholic school and it’s a big deal for Notre Dame coming in there.”

Merrimack (6-2-1, 2-1-0) is off to a fast start this season and last time out, the Warriors defeated then-No. 10 Providence, 1-0, Saturday on home ice.

“We know they’re tough to play against and it’s tough to play in that rink,” junior forward and captain Steven Fogarty said. “It’s a small rink and going from Minnesota to this rink is going to be an adjustment.”

Fogarty said the key to winning this weekend will be focusing on the basics.

“It’s just a matter of keeping things simple,” Fogarty said. “They’re going to play physical so it’s a matter of getting the puck in and out of their zone … they did well against Providence, who’s supposed to be the best team in our conference — it’s going to be a challenge for us but we’re ready.”

Last weekend’s sweep at the hands of No. 1 Minnesota snapped Notre Dame’s six-game unbeaten streak. In the second game of the series, the Irish dug themselves a 3-0 first-period deficit and Jackson said he felt his team gave too much respect to the nation’s top team.

“My whole point to them between [the second and third period] — and I said it during the game on Friday — is that you can’t show the opponent that much respect,” Jackson said. “I think we were on our heels and we gave them way too much respect. They’re a great team — I told [Gophers coach Don Lucia] after the game, ‘If you don’t win the national championship this year, shame on you.'”

However, once his team got going in the latter two periods Sunday, Jackson said there were some good things to take away.

“At least we had a positive because we outplayed them in the second and third periods on Sunday,” Jackson said. “At least we had something to build on coming home from a performance standpoint … [sophomore goaltender] Chad [Katunar] played well in goal, we did a good job of puck possession in the second and third periods, we made some nice plays, we hit three pipes — that game could’ve easily been tied going into the third period because we had some really good looks and some good chances.”

Freshman goaltender Cal Petersen was pulled after 20 minutes Sunday. However, Jackson said the move was not necessarily because of Petersen’s play.

“That was a wake-up call,” Jackson said. “I don’t want [Cal] to lose all of his confidence …”

Senior forward Peter Schneider said the blame should lie on the skaters, not the goalies, for giving up nine goals in two games.

“It’s definitely on us,” Schneider said. “We have to help our goalies out more — we’ve been giving up a lot of chances but it’s just things you have to work on.”

After struggling early in the season, Notre Dame’s power play unit got on the board Sunday when senior defenseman Robbie Russo scored to make it 3-1.

“We’re starting to get it, I think,” Jackson said. “We haven’t changed the units again for the last couple of weeks just because we’re starting to see good looks, getting some good chances. Maybe the goalie’s making a great save or we’re hitting the crossbar or hitting the pipe but we’re starting to see good puck movement.”

Despite the improvement, Jackson said the team could get better on the power play.

“We still don’t shoot the puck enough,” Jackson said. “That’s my only complaint at this point … [sophomore forward Vince Hinostroza] should think shot a little more than he does and so should Fogarty. Their instincts [are] to make a play — they’re both playmaking guys. … If we move the puck around well, and they get the ice to have a good scoring chance, they need to shoot the puck.”

Notre Dame has a pair of players high up on the national leaderboards ten games into the season — Junior left wing Mario Lucia’s eight goals tie him for third nationally while Russo’s 10 points are third amongst defensemen.

The Irish and Warriors take to the ice Friday and Saturday nights in North Andover, Massachusetts. The puck drops at 7 p.m. on both nights.

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About Alex Carson

Alex Carson graduated from Notre Dame in 2017 after majoring in Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics and living in O’Neill Hall. Hailing from the Indianapolis area, but born in Youngstown, Ohio, Carson is a Cleveland sports fan convinced that he’s already lived the “best day of his life.” At The Observer, Carson was first a Sports Writer, then served as an Associate Sports Editor (2015/16) and an Assistant Managing Editor (2016/17), before finishing his tenure as a Senior Sports Writer. A man of strong convictions, he ardently believes that Carly Rae Jepsen's 2015 release E•MO•TION is the greatest album of his generation, and wakes up early on Saturday mornings to listen, or occasionally watch, his favorite least-favorite sports team, Aston Villa. When he isn’t writing, Carson spends his time counting down the days to the next running of the Indianapolis 500 and reminding people that the Victory March starts with the lyric, “Rally sons of Notre Dame,” not “Cheer, cheer for Old Notre Dame.”

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