Carson: Leadership, finishing absent early in season
Alex Carson | Tuesday, December 2, 2014
In its last six home games, Notre Dame has jumped out to a 2-0 lead on four occasions.
That is … good. It is what home teams are supposed to do.
But there is an issue at hand — and that’s what transpires after the Irish get two goals up. They get comfortable, crawl into a shell, get massively outshot and eventually, concede a pair of goals to tie the game.
It has so far been without fault as on all four occasions, the Irish have blown the lead. Granted, they came back to win one of those games and held on for two ties but, still, for a team that recorded one win in nine games during the month of November, not winning when up by two goals at home is not sustainable.Especially in conference play, getting points away from home can be huge. For many teams, it’s the difference between a solid finish in the middle of the pack and a team that challenges for a regular-season championship.
But a team that cannot win at home? A finish in the bottom part of the conference standings beckons.
And at a certain point, a team’s ability to hold leads comes down to mindset as much as it does skill. It is no secret that the Irish are entirely devoid of confidence at the moment — their poor record this month shows that — but a lack of willingness to continue to play hard, to hustle and to do the things that got them an early lead really has little to do with confidence.
Admittedly, this is a young Notre Dame team and in many ways, like their football counterparts, the Irish can point to their inexperience as a source for struggles. In many ways, it is a fair point to make — for many, holding leads in juniors may have been easier and without having learned the lesson enough times, getting too comfortable with a two-goal lead could be an easy mistake to make.
But at the same point in time, it is a Notre Dame team that is carried — or at least should be — by a strong group of veteran leaders that maybe are not quite carrying their weight. A team’s mindset should not influenced by its youth, but instead by its leadership. Forwards make up the majority of this team’s veteran core and fundamentally, they have to be the ones to set the table once the team goes up by a pair of goals. Rather than trying to take the rest of the night off, they need to keep playing hard, keep skating and keep generating chances, lest the team’s pair of goaltenders (sophomore Chad Katunar and freshman Cal Petersen) keep having to make 30 saves a night just to keep the Irish from losing the game.Then again, Notre Dame’s approach could be worse, like it was Saturday night when it got taken to the woodshed by a mediocre-at-best Ohio State team. The Buckeyes entered Saturday with just four wins on the season and got drilled 6-2 by Western Michigan the night before. But they came onto Notre Dame’s home ice and put a 5-1 beatdown on the hosts.
From here? It would be hard to imagine it could be worse. A trip to Massachusetts beckons this weekend, and the Minutemen sit at the bottom of the Hockey East standings, posting a 1-7-0 record so far in the league. In eight conference games, this weekend’s opponent has given up 42 goals. While it is a road series, this weekend presents Notre Dame an opportunity to start to turn its season around.The bad news? A three-week layoff follows for the Irish, making it difficult to carry momentum forward.
Or maybe at this point, that layoff is good news. Maybe it gives the Irish a chance to clear their heads and start from fresh when the second part of their schedule picks up with a holiday tournament in late December.
The Irish have hit rock bottom. This weekend is a great chance to start the slow climb back up towards the top of the totem pole.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.