No. 1 Irish prepare for rematch with Wisconsin
Jack Concannon | Thursday, January 18, 2018
This Friday, the No. 1 Irish will play host to No. 18 Wisconsin in a Big Ten matchup, followed by a Sunday rematch of the two squads at the United Center in Chicago.
The Badgers (11-11-3, 5-7-2 Big Ten) will be looking for revenge from the two losses the Irish (18-3-1, 12-0-0) handed them in December, while the red-hot Irish are looking to keep up their momentum. The Irish are on a 15-game win streak, having won all 12 of their Big Ten games to date en route to top of the national standings.
Senior defenseman Jordan Gross believes the team has remained dialed in, and has blocked out any temptations to get complacent while riding the winning streak.
“Coach [Jeff Jackson] has done a really good job of emphasizing that we can’t be satisfied,” Gross said. “We’ve had a good start, but it won’t mean anything if we don’t keep getting better every day.”
The Irish will look to continue to work on their stifling defense, which is what makes them such a tough team to play against — the Irish have not surrendered more than two goals in a game since Nov. 10. Jackson believes the team’s depth and experience on the blue line has helped it turn into a menacing group.
“Our defensive depth is really strong. That’s been one of the strengths of our team,” Jackson said. “Having older defenseman like Jordan Gross and [junior defenseman] Dennis Gilbert, and I think [junior defenseman] Bobby Nardella has grown a lot this year. With the experience some of the younger guys have gotten, we’ve been dressing seven defenseman regularly and we try to dress them all. We’ve tried to divvy up the ice time, which keeps them all involved in the game. We have four guys on the power play and four guys on the penalty kill on a regular basis, and they all play to their strengths.”
The Irish boast one of the strongest blue lines in college hockey, but sophomore goaltender Cale Morris has been often been busy in the crease. Morris has won each of his last four starts despite facing over 30 shots in each of the four contests, including 34 and 39 shot tests from Wisconsin in that time. Gross believes that Morris has been a critical part of the team’s success to date.
“He does a really good job of communicating. The trust that we’ve built with him, you know what you’re going to get out of him now,” Gross said. “He’s just been extremely steady. If we just try and limit their good opportunities we know he’ll stop their bad shots.”
The Irish will head to Chicago on Saturday to skate on the United Center ice and prepare for their neutral site game with the Badgers on Sunday. The Irish will return to the site of the Frozen Four last year, where the team was eliminated by the eventual champion Denver Pioneers, 6-1. Jackson believes that the environment there will be different than the one the Irish played in back in the Frozen Four.
“If we have 10,000 people there that would be great. The Frozen Four, that building was full so it will be a little bit less of a factor,” Jackson said. “It’ll be good for our guys. We skated there last week and will get another chance to skate there on Saturday for a short period of time. I think it’s good for our guys to get experience playing in that kind of environment. It does prepare you for the Frozen Four if you make it there or even Regionals. It’s good for their development to play in an intimidating building.”
The Irish will take on the Badgers at Compton Ice Arena at 7:35 p.m. Friday and then again at 3 p.m. on Sunday at the United Center.