Notre Dame looks to best Michigan at home
Jack Concannon | Tuesday, February 12, 2019
The No. 14 Irish failed to collect a point the last time they played, dropping both games two weekends ago at Ohio State. That weekend bumped Notre Dame (14-10-3, 7-8-2 Big Ten) from second to fifth in the standings, but the Irish have impending games on many of the teams ahead of them, with home-ice advantage in the conference tournament still to play for.
The first of these games comes Tuesday at home against Michigan, who leapfrogged Notre Dame last weekend in the standings. The Irish have played two fewer games and sit at fifth place in the Big Ten, five points behind the second-ranked Wolverines (12-11-6, 8-7-4), a deficit which can shortened with win on Tuesday night.
Head coach Jeff Jackson believes the team is playing good hockey, but needs to focus on its offense for the rest of the season.
“Against good defensive teams with good goaltenders we are having a tough time finishing,” Jackson said. “We need to find a way to get over that hump. We’re going to run into a lot of good teams as we finish this season and then into the playoffs. It’s important that we rebound. It was good timing for the bye week. It’s not a full bye week because we play Tuesday night, so we do have to practice to get ready for Michigan.”
The Irish are 1-2 against the Wolverines this season, including a 4-2 loss in an outdoor game played in Notre Dame Stadium last month. One key to Irish victory will be staying out of the penalty box, as the Wolverines have scored three power play goals against them this season. Coach Jackson had high praise for the way Michigan has played lately.
“They’re playing a lot better than what we saw in Ann Arbor,” he said. “I thought when we played them in the outdoor game they showed us some stuff we did not see the first time we played them as far as their depth. I think that’s how they’re different from when we played them early in the year — I think their depth is better. They’re not the old-fashioned Michigan team anymore. They’re not all speed; they’re more structured and more controlled defensively. They block a lot of shots.”
The Irish are also still adjusting to having junior forwards Cam Morrison and Cal Burke back in the lineup. Both returned from injuries against Ohio State after missing five and four games, respectively.
The duo’s impact was felt immediately. Morrison scored in his first game back while Burke created ample chances. Burke also scored a goal in the second matchup against the Buckeyes, but it was unfortunately disallowed to keep the Irish scoreless in their 2-0 defeat. For a team that has struggled to score at times, getting the two back will have a massive impact on the rest of the season.
“Cal [Burke] did not miss as much time as Cam [Morrison], so I think Cal was in better physical shape for the games. I thought they both played okay. That line gave us good minutes — I had [junior forward] Jack Jenkins playing with the two of them,” Jackson said. “It changes the dynamic of that line to have Jack Jenkins playing with them”
The Irish will host the Wolverines tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Compton Family Ice Arena.