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ND heads east to face Eichel, Boston University

| Friday, February 20, 2015

Notre Dame will travel to Boston this weekend to square off against conference foe and No. 3 Boston University.

The Terriers (19-5-4, 13-3-2 Hockey East) currently stand atop the conference standings, leading fifth-place Notre Dame (13-15-4, 8-6-4) by eight points with just four games remaining in the regular season for the Irish.

Notre Dame is coming off a two-point performance against No. 12 Providence, splitting the two-game series with the Friars this past weekend at Compton Family Ice Arena.

Irish sophomore center Vince Hinostroza, the team’s points leader, said the squad has shown more consistency recently, but has yet to play a full 120 minutes over the course of a weekend.

“We’ve had some good weekends [recently], and we’ve come away with points in the past three weekends, but we just want to come together and play a full weekend,” Hinostroza said.

Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson echoed Hinostroza’s emphasis on the team’s consistency and said the Irish still need to improve at managing the speed of other teams.

The Terriers are outscoring their opponents by 1.6 goals per game (3.8 to 2.2) and boast the nation’s top two point scorers in freshman forward Jack Eichel and senior forward Evan Rodrigues.

Eichel comes into this weekend’s series with a total of 47 points (16 goals and 31 assists), averaging 1.74 points per game.

Notre Dame senior defenseman Eric Johnson said he believes the Irish back line is up for the challenge of playing against Eichel and the Terriers’ offense. Practicing against teammates like Hinostroza that mirror Eichel’s style of play helps the team prepare, he said.

“[Vinnie] is a guy that you never really know what he’s gonna do,” Johnson said. “He’s really shifty and creative [with the puck], and I think that’ll help us prepare for a guy like Jack Eichel. We know he’s going to do shifty stuff, but we’ve seen that type of stuff all year, so I think we’re prepared defensively to sustain them.”

Jackson said when facing an offense as prolific as that of Boston University, it is not a matter of slowing the Terriers down but instead avoiding surrendering opportunities on which they can capitalize.

“If you turn pucks over, if you take penalties, if you’re constantly chasing on face-offs, then you put yourself at a disadvantage and that’s when you let them play into their strengths,” Jackson said.

Jackson said goaltending will be key this weekend and that Irish freshman goaltender Cal Petersen has shown more consistency in the past few weeks.

Petersen was named Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week for the second straight week Monday, marking the third time he was won that award this season.

In Notre Dame’s past four contests, Petersen has stopped 113 of 117 shots, including a 38-save shutout against Providence this past Friday, and accumulated a .966 save percentage.

While Petersen has been solid the past two weekends, the Irish will need even more consistency out of their freshman to have success in postseason play, Jackson said.

“In the past few weeks, we’ve seen some consistency, but consistency is having a rough game one out of 10 games, not one out of five,” Jackson said.

Jackson said he is confident in his team’s ability to play in difficult road venues. He said he has seen his team mature over the course of the season, comparing the way the Irish played in November against Minnesota, when they lost both games, to how his squad played against Maine two weekends ago, when it earned three points.

Notre Dame will play No. 3 Boston University on Friday and Saturday nights at Agganis Arena in Boston, with the puck dropping at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 7 p.m. Saturday.

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