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Notre Dame looks forward to first test of the season at Minnesota-Duluth

| Thursday, October 13, 2016

After putting 13 goals past Arizona State last weekend, No. 5 Notre Dame faces a much tougher test this weekend when it travels north for a showdown with No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth. While Irish head coach Jeff Jackson was pleased with the victories, he did think the team could improve its consistency, as the Irish (2-0-0) dominated the first game 9-2 but struggled to put the Sun Devils (0-2-0) away en-route to a 4-2 win.

“Obviously different reactions from Friday to Saturday,” Jackson said. “I thought we used our speed effectively on Friday, and Saturday I thought we lacked some intensity, I mean the score from Friday night might’ve impacted that, I’m not sure, Parent’s Weekend might’ve impacted that, but we gotta make sure that’s just a one-time thing, we can’t have that level of inconsistency Friday and Saturday.”

Junior forward Anders Bjork holds off a defender during Notre Dame’s 4-2 win over ASU on Saturday at Compton Family Ice Area.Kelly Vaughan | The Observer
Junior forward Anders Bjork holds off a defender during Notre Dame’s 4-2 win over ASU on Saturday at Compton Family Ice Area.

One particular area of interest was the power play, as the Irish were 6-of-15 on Friday, but only 1-for-9 on Saturday. While Jackson admitted Arizona State played better in the second game, he said the team was still experimenting with who should be on the ice in that situation.

“I think we’re still feeling out a couple guys. So we’re still kinda experimenting a bit,” Jackson said. “Once we identify guys that are consistent, you know, in what they do and what they bring to the table, then we’ll lock in. … Both special teams are a work in progress; we got a bunch of new guys on penalty kill, we got several new guys on the power play, so for us, it’s just trying to evaluate who belongs there on a full-time basis.”

One man that won’t be dropped from the power play, however, is junior forward Anders Bjork. This week, Bjork was named the Hockey East Player of the Week, after his four-goal, three-assist performance against Arizona State. Additionally, junior captain and goalkeeper Cal Petersen was one of 20 players named to the Mike Richter Award Watch List for 2016-17, given to the best goalie in the country. Last year, Petersen had a .927 save percentage, good for 12th best in the country.

But both will have to be at their best this weekend if the Irish are going to get results.

“They’re always a top-10 program, consistently, and they play the game hard,” Jackson said of the Bulldogs (2-0-2). “I mean, they have a lot of talent, they’re usually skilled, and they play fast, but they got some grit to them, and they’re hard to play against. But they’re not cheap, they’re very well coached, they’re tough to play against — I mean they’re going to give us more than we can handle at times — and hopefully we can do the same to them, but’s it in their building, so it’s going to be a big challenge for us.”

Jackson’s biggest concern about the matchup is the major upgrade in game speed, as Duluth is more talented than Arizona State.

“We’re going to have to be ready for the speed of the game, it’s going to be higher than what we’ve played,” he said. “I think the [U.S. National Team Development Program] game probably helped us a little bit in that area, but I think the biggest thing is going to be puck decisions probably, and trying to stay out of the penalty box. … I think the biggest thing for a lot of these young kids is going to be playing in a real hostile environment, and a lot of them already have in the USHL and other places, but not like a college environment. I mean, college hockey is like football in a way, you practice all week and play two games on the weekend, so every game is almost like a playoff game, and hopefully last weekend, I thought Saturday we weren’t as sharp, and like I said, I hope that there was reason for that, but I’m hoping we are able to come out and play with the same energy and speed and focus we had on Friday this coming Friday, because even if we do, it’s going to be a hard, hard game.”

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About Tobias Hoonhout

Toby served as Managing Editor in the 2018-2019 term.

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