Notre Dame to face UMass Lowell in top-10 showdown
Alex Bender | Thursday, November 17, 2016
No. 9 Notre Dame will host No. 5 UMass Lowell on Thursday and Friday at Compton Family Ice Arena as both teams look to gain a leg up in Hockey East standings via the top-10 matchup.
UMass Lowell, which currently sits at 7-3-2 on the season, is coming off a weekend series in which it lost, 5-2, on the road before picking up a 4-1 win at home on Sunday. The Irish, who are 5-3-2 so far, are coming off a bizarre weekend at Northeastern in which they won 5-2 Saturday, picking up head coach Jeff Jackson’s 250th win with the program, but Sunday’s contest was suspended and ruled a tie at 0-0 after two periods due to a zamboni breakdown that damaged the ice.
Jackson said the quick turn-around time after the weekend will have an impact on both the Irish and the River Hawks.
“It’s always a little more challenging, especially having played Sunday and the trip back from Boston, but you get one or two practices, and then you have to get ready to go,” Jackson said. “The same thing applies to Lowell, and they’re traveling, as they played on Sunday as well.”
More specifically, Jackson notes the impact this has had on the week of practice and how the team has prepared for the matchup.
“We have to be smarter in our approach,” Jackson said. “[Wednesday] will be a little more brisk and short than a normal Wednesday. We still have to touch a little on our special teams. We want to have them fresh for tomorrow, and it will be a school day where they’ll be in classes until two o’clock.”
On the season, one of the strongest aspects of Notre Dame’s game has been its third-period play. The Irish are outscoring opponents 17-6 in the final period of games with an average of 1.89 goals per third period, good enough for first in the nation along with Boston University. As such, Jackson has this — specifically the depth of his team and how it can keep the players fresh — as creating success for the Irish.
“I think our depth has been a positive, and I think it has payed dividends,” Jackson said. “Northeastern didn’t play their fourth line very much Saturday night, and they’ve got injuries, but I was still playing four lines, and that put us in a good position for Sunday where we were playing four lines and they were playing their first line every other shift for half the game, so I was hoping it would pay dividends.”
While picking up the win and possible tie/make-up game was promising for Notre Dame, but it is apparent that at No. 5 in the nation, UMass Lowell is a different test. They will present some challenges that perhaps Notre Dame hasn’t seen yet this year with nothing coming easy for the Irish.
Jackson credited a lot of that to the style of play by the River Hawks.
“They’re a really good transition team, and they play to their system and their system is their strength,” Jackson said. “They’ve got some good players, don’t get me wrong, but they play a real physical defensive zone system where they’ve got four forwards low all the time and they make it hard to generate anything off the cycle in the offensive zone, and they transition well from it. They play an up-tempo game, but it’s mostly from the style in which they play.
“They spread you out offensively and they’re very well coached, and they play a little different system in the defensive zone than anyone we play, so it makes it a little more challenging, especially with a short preparation week.”