Notre Dame, Boston College to renew rivalry
Hunter McDaniel | Thursday, December 10, 2015
The Irish have one more test this semester before they break for finals and Christmas vacation — a Thursday game at No. 3 Boston College.
No. 18 Notre Dame (8-4-4, 5-1-2 Hockey East) carries a three-game win streak into Boston, where it will renew its rivalry with the Eagles (13-1-1, 6-0-1), who have been nearly unbeatable through the first half of the season.
Irish head coach Jeff Jackson said he respects the way the Eagles play and that this will be another tough conference foe for the Irish heading into break.
“We’re gonna have our hands full,” Jackson said. “It’s another test, like Harvard, similar offensive capabilities. Their third line may even be deeper offensively than Harvard’s was, so we have to make sure that we do things right with the puck and do things right as far as our discipline goes. If we play the way that we have shown at times and we can do it for 60 minutes, we’ll put ourselves into position to win.”
Heading into the game, the Irish sit just one point behind second-place Boston College in the Hockey East race, and, according to senior center Thomas DiPauli, a strong showing against the Eagles would be a big step in the right direction for Notre Dame.
“We have confidence right now,” DiPauli said. “We’ve played well the past couple weekends, and B.C. is a good team. But I think we’re better. We’ve got better forwards. We’re better defensively, so we just gotta go in there with a good mindset. A win would be huge going into break, going into Denver. So that’s gonna help us out too.”
For Jackson, what has made Boston College so great over the years is a combination of its system and head coach Jerry York, who is closing in on 1,000 career wins as a head coach.
“Jerry’s always been considered one of the best coaches in the country,” Jackson said. “His strength is his people skills I think. He gets the best out of his players, but he also gets the best players, and that takes people skills. Recruiting has certainly gone in their favor since he’s been at Boston College. They do a great job bringing in elite level talent, and they’re usually very deep offensively. Frankly, when they lose a good player, they replace him rather easily. It’s made them the consistent threat in the conference and nationally, and he deserves the credit for that because he’s built that program into a juggernaut.”
This particular Eagles team, led in net by junior Thatcher Demko, who boasts six shutouts this season, will be one of the stingiest teams the Irish have played up to this point.
“You gotta make plays and get pucks to the net,” Jackson said. “They don’t give you much time in space. They’re a very fast team, very well coached. Their structure defensively is not overly difficult but it is executed, and that’s probably the most important thing. They play a very simple system, but they do it really well.”
Echoing the words of his coach, DiPauli said his experience playing both with and against Demko and much of the rest of this Boston College team gives Notre Dame an edge against a team as skilled as the Eagles.
“I’ve been on a few teams with [Demko], and I’ve played against him quite a bit,” DiPauli said. “I know him. He’s a great kid, but I think the key against him is to get a lot of shots and bodies to the net, and that kinda frustrates him. And then once you get two three goals and keep shooting, the goals keep adding up. I mean, I know two years ago we beat him 6-1 or something like that, and every shot was going in. So we kinda gotta get in his head, maybe run him a few times to get him off his game a little bit. He’s had a few shutouts, but I think if we crash the net hard, push him back in his crease a little bit, we’ll have success.”
The Irish take on rival Boston College on Thursday at Kelley Rink at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. The puck drops at 7:05 p.m. After break, the Irish return to action with a pair of games at No. 11 Denver.