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Notre Dame to face Hockey East foe

| Thursday, November 12, 2015

After a weekend split with Minnesota, No. 18 Notre Dame returns to the ice Thursday when it hosts Northeastern.

Notre Dame (4-2-2, 2-0-0 Hockey East) will resume conference play this weekend with a two-game homestand against the Huskies (1-7-1, 0-3-1), whose only win up to this point in the season came at home against Colgate in their season opener Oct. 10.

Senior left wing Mario Lucia looks to pass during a 2-0 loss to Boston College on Feb. 27 at Compton  Family Ice Arena. The Irish host Northwestern for a pair of games Thursday and Friday this week. Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer
Senior left wing Mario Lucia looks to pass during a 2-0 loss to Boston College on Feb. 27 at Compton
Family Ice Arena. The Irish host Northwestern for a pair of games Thursday and Friday this week.

With a Thursday game this week, the Irish are in the midst of a four-game stretch in just eight days, something Irish head coach Jeff Jackson said makes this week particularly challenging for his team.

“It’s tough when you get short work weeks, because obviously you have to consider the demands of school,” Jackson said. “I worry not so much about the physical fatigue, because these guys are young, they’re athletes, so it’s not so much physical as it is mental. This weekend we worry a little bit about the guys not being all-engaged just because they’re a little spent when they come to the rink, and now we’ve got two school days of hockey instead of just one.”

In order to keep his team engaged when the puck drops, Jackson said he is open to trying a number of things.

“We try different things, as far as our warmup approach, in discussions with the leadership group,” he said. “The older guys usually have a better idea of how to manage their time, but it’s about making sure the younger guys can handle it.”

Sophomore Jake Evans, coming off a game against Minnesota last Friday in which he matched his career high with three assists, has recently made the transition from right wing to center full time, something Jackson said he has been following closely and will continue to monitor this weekend.

“We recruited him because of that ability,” Jackson said. “The big thing for him is just learning how to use it consistently in his game, because he was a different player Friday night to Saturday. I thought he was our best player Friday night. He needs to learn how to bring it every night. I keep telling him, [his performance on faceoffs] has a lot to do with additional ice time, because now he’s killing penalties pretty consistently. He’s a smart player, but he’s also got a little snot to him, he’s got a little grit to him. He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s gritty, and, especially when you’re trying to win a faceoff, it’s almost like a center in football.

“You gotta have a little grit – you’re not just hiking the ball, you’re also blocking. It’s the same thing for a faceoff.”

Evans also said he thinks his performance on faceoffs this season so far is one of the main reasons he’s been getting more ice time, but he gave credit to his wingers for making his job easier.

“I think it’s going really well so far with two freshmen [on my line],” Evans said. “I think [freshman left wing Dylan Malmquist] has a really unique touch, and he can score from a lot of areas. I think [freshman center Andrew] Oglevie has a lot of speed. And I think all of us work well together. They both in juniors scored a lot of goals, so it’s not very hard setting those guys up because it seems like they can finish from anywhere.”

This weekend will present a unique challenge for the team, despite the fact that the Huskies have gotten off to a slow start, according to Jackson.

“They have a little tradition over the last several years of starting slow, and then they go on a big roll,” he said. “We just have to hope the roll starts later. They have a very talented group of forwards, in my opinion. They’re very good in the offensive zone. They’re good on transition. They’ve got a lot of offensive weapons — we haven’t had the greatest track record against them.”

Evans said it is important the team continues its strong start in conference play in order to achieve the squad’s overall goals.

“To get a big start early in the season is gonna be huge for us,” Evans said. “The schedule only gets harder from here, and I think our goal is obviously to get top four [in the Hockey East] and to get a bye in the first round. Last year, playing that five-overtime game in the first round really took a lot out of us. Every point counts in this league, every team here has a chance to win every night. So I think it’s good that we get every point we can get.”

The Irish will have the chance to grab points from a struggling Northeastern team with a pair of games this week. The puck drops at 7:35 p.m. both Thursday and Friday night at Compton Family Ice Arena.

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