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Irish stress limiting penalties

| Thursday, December 3, 2015

As the No. 20 Irish prepare for a weekend series with conference opponent Massachusetts, Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson has focused on limiting the amount of penalties his team takes, especially as penalties have led to more opponent goals in recent games.

“My biggest thing right now is that we have to play with more discipline,” Jackson said. “There’s gonna be penalties in games regardless. You’re gonna take penalties for physical errors. You’re gonna take penalties that may be marginal calls. You’re gonna take penalties in different ways, but the ones you have to eliminate are the ones you have control over. As a coach, hindsight is 20/20. We’ve never had an issue with major penalties, but now we’ve had four. And we have to eliminate them. You have to call out guys to tell them the next time they’re going to have to miss a game. So it’s gotten to that point.”

At the end of the second period in the 4-1 loss to Harvard on Friday, the Crimson took advantage of a 5-on-3 power play by scoring 5-on-3 and 5-on-4 goals less than a minute apart to turn a tie game into a two-goal lead heading into the third period. In the third period, Harvard scored on another power play to cement their three-goal victory over the Irish (6-4-4, 3-1-2 Hockey East). Notre Dame took nine penalties, all two-minute minors, in the loss to Harvard.

Irish sophomore left wing Anders Bjork carries the puck during Notre Dame’s 3-2 win over Northeastern on Nov. 12 at Compton Family Ice Arena. Notre Dame took 15 penalties in two games last weekend.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer

Irish sophomore left wing Anders Bjork carries the puck during Notre Dame’s 3-2 win over Northeastern on Nov. 12 at Compton Family Ice Arena. Notre Dame took 15 penalties in two games last weekend.

Then in its 3-1 victory over Western Michigan on Saturday, Notre Dame again had to kill a number of penalties, committing 23 minutes worth, and gave up its only goal on a Broncos power play near the end of the second period.

“It’s not just major penalties though, it’s some of the other penalties as well,” Jackson said. “We’ve considered bad penalties anything in the offensive zone, taking an offensive zone penalty. Any penalty that puts us down two men on the penalty kill, a penalty on the power play and then bench penalties for whatever reason – emotional penalties, too many men on the ice, things like that.”

When discussing how he deals with individual players who commit such penalties, Jackson said that each penalty should be evaluated individually.

“I like to review the penalty,” Jackson said. “The fact that it’s a game misconduct and not a game disqualification means it was not as severe because they’d miss the game regardless. I told our guys, I wouldn’t one of them being hit in the head or from behind. So that’s the way we have to approach it.

“If it’s an accidental high hit, [senior defenseman] Andy Ryan’s one penalty was an accidental high hit. His second one probably could’ve been dealt with. The one on [freshman left wing] Dylan Malmquist and then on [sophomore center] Jake Evans, those are the decisions you have to make at the last second when the guy’s in a prone position, whether he’s got his back turned to you or his head’s down and you hit him high. Those are ones that can be averted in my opinion, and those are the ones we have to try to eliminate.”

Sophomore left wing Anders Bjork echoed the sentiments of his coach, and said eliminating penalty minutes must come without sacrificing aggressive hockey.

“You don’t want to think about taking penalties too much,” Bjork said. “But I think we don’t want to eliminate any of our physicality or aggressiveness. So I think we just want to try to be smart and move our foot instead of hooking, things like that. If we just play the right way, our penalties will decrease, and I think that will happen if we just stay focused, which we’ve been working on a lot.”

Bjork and the Irish will get a chance to cut down on the penalties that have been hurting them recently when they welcome the Minutemen (6-5-4, 2-2-4) to Compton Family Ice Arena for a pair of weekend games, starting on Friday.

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