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Notre Dame hits road to face Boston

| Friday, February 24, 2017

This weekend No. 13 Notre Dame heads to No. 6 Boston University for a pair of games with big implications for the Hockey East standings and subsequent playoff seeding.

As things stand right now, Notre Dame (18-9-5, 11-5-4 Hockey East) can finish anywhere between first and fifth place before the conference tournament gets underway, although they only need to walk away with one point to guarantee a top-four finish and a first round bye.

Coming into the game, Notre Dame is playing some of its best hockey of the season as the Irish are undefeated over their last six games, going 4-0-2 during that stretch. The Terriers (20-9-3) are playing solid hockey as well, coming off a weekend where they picked up a win and a tie against New Hampshire, with the win being a one-sided, 8-4 affair. Irish head coach Jeff Jackson said he likes the way his team is playing and feels this is a good time for Notre Dame to have to take on one of the nation’s top teams.

“If you’re going to be playing teams like this … we just have to play in control,” Jackson said. “We can’t go out there and just play rec hockey, so we have to know what we’re doing with and without the puck. When we’re in control, we’re playing really well.”

Given Boston’s high octane offense, Jackson acknowledges that the team will need to ask a lot from junior goaltender Cal Petersen.

“He’s going to have to be our best player, but that’s most nights. There are games where we’re not quite as sharp or the opponent is just better, and he’s going to have to be the difference maker,” Jackson said. “If he’s focused and in control, then that’s when he’s at his best … He’s going to have to be dialed in for us to win this weekend.”

Petersen has played well in his career against Boston University, coming away 2-1-1 all time with a 1.73 goals against average and .952 save percentage. Coming into this weekend’s contests, Petersen said he recognizes the importance of his team being properly prepared and playing confidently.

“We’re going in preparing like we do for any other team. We’ve said it all year that if we can stick to our game plan, we can beat anybody,” Petersen said. “They’re obviously a very skilled, very talented team, but if we can do our best to frustrate them and keep pucks down in their end, I think we should be able to do well.”

Notre Dame’s series against Boston isn’t the only matchup that could have major implication in the Hockey East standings. In addition to its pair of games, first-place Boston College has a weekend series against fourth-place UMass Lowell, with UMass already taking the first game of the series Thursday night. With all of the possible implications this weekend could have for his team, Petersen feels good about where the Irish are and about their chances of being successful.

“The hottest teams are the ones that do the most damage this time of year, and I think we have found ourselves to be one of the hottest teams in the country right now, and certainly in the Hockey East,” Petersen said. “With the opportunity of being able to — at the very least — clinch a first-round bye and at the best get a share of the regular season championship, that’s what we want. I think our hard work should be realized, so it’s kind of a cool dynamic with five teams going for position and should turn out to be an exciting weekend.”

The two games this weekend will be played on Friday and Saturday at 6:05 and 7:05 p.m., respectively, as Notre Dame makes a last-ditch effort to improve its circumstances heading into the conference tournament.

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