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Hockey

Notre Dame prepares for Frozen Four rematch with rival Michigan

| Friday, November 9, 2018

After splitting a home series with No. 7 Ohio State, No. 6 Notre Dame will head to Ann Arbor this weekend to take on No. 14 Michigan in a two-game series at Yost Ice Arena.

Ann Curtis | The Observer

Irish freshman defenseman Nate Clurman clears the puck out from behind the net during Notre Dame’s 1-0 loss to Ohio State Friday night at Compton Family Ice Arena.

The Irish (4-3-1, 1-1 Big Ten) met with the Wolverines (4-3) five times last year — Notre Dame’s first season in the Big Ten — and the Irish claimed victory in three of those matches. One of those wins came in the Frozen Four, when junior Cam Morrison assisted former captain Jake Evans for the winning goal with just seconds to play, earning the Irish a national championship berth.

Michigan holds the advantage in the all-time record between the two programs 76-59-5, but since the 2012-2013 season, the Irish hold an 8-3 advantage in the series.

As the Irish head into the bulk of their Big Ten season, Michigan poses a unique threat as a high-pace, offensive-minded team. Irish head coach Jeff Jackson expressed his confidence in his squad’s ability to improve as they continue to face challenging opponents.  

“They’re a talented team,” Jackson said. “It’s going to be like that all year. The Big Ten, it’s not going to be any different next week with Michigan State with the way they’re playing right now. So, we just have to keep working to improve over the next few months and hopefully we learn that consistency in what we’re trying to accomplish, then we can become a really good team I think.”

In their second year in the Big Ten, the Irish know from last season that competition is steep, and when you continually travel to really intense hockey arenas, consistency vital to success, according to Jackson.

“I think the biggest thing is that we’re still growing as a team, and we’re seeing good things but not consistently,” he said. “So, it’s a matter of finding a way to play the same way for 60 minutes. So, the biggest thing for me is the ability to come out of our own end with some speed — that’s where the inconsistency starts. Sometimes our defenseman like to go back the puck or we go back with the puck and we don’t have good puck support. So, for me, that’s the number one priority over the next two months is to really work on our game coming out of our own end. And, taking care of our own end- both offensively and defensively.”

For junior captain Andrew Peeke that key consistency stems from practicing well, and he believes the Irish are prepared heading into the game against Michigan.

“I think [consistency comes from] practice,” Peeke said. “Going into the [Minnesota-Duluth game], I think we had a couple of practices that we probably would have taken back and re-done. And I think that showed in the weekend and not being able to play a consistent 60 minutes in the game. So, this week we’ve had a great week of practice, and I think that’s a really big thing in college because those weeks to prepare for each weekend are so important. So practice is kind of where it starts leading up to the games.”

With a young team, it’s crucial that some guys step up into bigger leadership roles heading into the bulk of conference play, and Jackson looks forward to what some of the younger guys could bring to the table this season.

“I think the most important thing … we’ve got the three young defenseman that are playing fairly consistently,” Jackson said. “It’s just about puck decisions and making plays under pressure. And I think the same thing would apply to the freshman forwards too, you know, it’s having the ability to make a play under pressure. One of the biggest reasons we’re not scoring as much as we need to be as far as five-on-five hockey goes, and part of that is we’re doing a decent job through the neutral zone, maybe not so much coming out of our own end, but in the neutral zone we’re doing a decent job. But we’re not finishing the play, and that takes the ability to break down a pair of defenseman or back pressure guys, forwards coming back, you’re going to have pressure in front of you, you’re going to have pressure behind you. And it’s the ability to make a play with that pressure- that’s always the biggest challenge for young players is to get acclimated to that. And hey, it applies to all of our players, not just the freshman.”

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