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Irish drop two games against Wolverines

| Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The No. 18-ranked Notre Dame hockey team dropped a pair of home games to Michigan over the weekend.

The Irish (10-9-3, 5-5-2 Big Ten) were outscored by the Wolverines (9-11-2, 4-7-1 Big Ten) 6-1 over the weekend, and the losses mark the third series this season Notre Dame has come away from 0-2.

Although the losses may look bad given Michigan’s subpar record, Irish head coach Jeff Jackson said ”it’s not like we got beat by a poor team.”

“I think that they’re a good team. They’ve got a lot of talent on that team,” Jackson said. “They’re getting their game together right now, and we just so happened to be in the way.”

Even so, the Irish struggled to find any offensive rhythm for the entire weekend, a struggle that has dogged them over the last several games. Through the first nine games of the season, the team scored 37 goals en route to an 8-0-1 record. Since then, the Irish have scored 24 goals in 13 games.

Allison Thornton | The Observer
Irish sophomore forward Jake Pivonka follows through on a slap shot during Notre Dame’s 3-2 overtime win over Ohio State on Nov. 8 at Compton Family Ice Arena. Pivonka got an assist during Saturday’s loss.

Developing a strong offense has been difficult, Jackson said.

“It’s a bit of the makeup of our team too,” Jackson said. ”… I can’t coach confidence. I can’t coach goal-scoring. That’s kind of an innate ability for guys, but there’s certainly guys that can score on this team that haven’t had that success. You can’t win not scoring, that’s not how’s the game’s played.”

In the first contest of the series, the Irish failed to capitalize on a few opportunities in the first period, while a penalty allowed the Wolverines to take an early lead 18 seconds into the power play. The Irish would continue to have opportunities but come up short time and again, as Michigan pulled away in the final period with two goals to take the first match 3-0.

The second game saw Notre Dame fare slightly better as they took a 1-0 lead in the first period from a goal by sophomore forward Graham Slaggert, then killed back-to-back penalties to maintain it going into the first intermission.

However, the puck refused to find the back of the net for the Irish as Michigan scored on a power play to tie the score and, after taking the lead in the second period, get an insurance empty-net goal to win 3-1.

“I’ll probably have dreams tonight about pucks laying in the crease with open nets but just not being able to get to them, because it happened at least two or three times tonight,” Jackson said. “Hopefully those things even out over time.”

Jackson credited Michigan for their defensive play.

“Give them their due,” Jackson said. ”They defend well, and their goaltender played well.“

Aside from their shortcomings offensively, penalties and simple mistakes, like bad point coverage in the defensive zone, also hurt the Irish.

“I told them between periods, ‘It’s one thing if you get beat by the opponent, it’s another if you get beat [by] yourself,‘” Jackson said.

With that, Jackson believes the offensive struggles impact the rest of their play.

“I had to have a talk with our captain this morning because, tonight was much better, he played a really good game in my opinion,” Jackson said. ”But I think that guys put that weight on their shoulders because they’re not scoring, so they get away from the things that we need to do as a team. And that’s probably been a collective thing more than an individual thing.”

Despite the hardship, Jackson still believes in what his team is capable of based on what they showed earlier in the season.

“It’s a matter of getting them back into the mindset that we’ve got to focus on the details of our game” he said. “We’ve seen how we can play, and we just have to find a way to get back to that.”

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About Hayden Adams

Hayden is the former sports editor of The Observer. When he's not working toward his four majors (physics and film, television & theatre) and three minors (journalism, ethics & democracy), you can probably find him hopelessly trying to save his beloved Zahm House from being wiped out. He plans to attend law school at a TBD location after graduation.

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