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Hockey

Irish looking to hit stride against Wolverines

| Friday, February 21, 2020

Following a 2-1 loss against Minnesota at home Saturday night, Notre Dame will hit the road to face Big Ten rival Michigan in a weekend series. The Irish (12-12-6, 7-8-5) will look to start hitting their stride at the right time as they enter the final stretch of the regular season.

Holding onto leads late in games is something that has given the Irish problems all season, and this past weekend was no exception. Notre Dame blew two goal leads on back-to-back nights against Minnesota (14-11-5, 9-6-5), squandering a chance to pick up two wins against the Big Ten leaders. In his weekly press conference, Irish head coach Jeff Jackson addressed his team’s struggles in the third period.

“I think the biggest disappointment from this weekend was that both nights we lost the lead in the third period, and that’s something that’s been a hinderance all season long. Whether it’s taking an unnecessary penalty or making a bad turnover, which happened on both goals on Saturday, we just have to play smarter,” Jackson said. “When you have guys who are taking bad penalties, you can sit them down or discipline them or whatever, but it’s coming from different sources every night. It’s not just one guy your trying to get the point across to. It’s really about getting everyone to do the same thing to not just hold onto the lead, but to score that next goal.”

The Irish will walk into Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor on Friday night to face one of the hottest teams in the country. Michigan (15-12-3, 10-8-2-1) has won seven of its last 10 games, including a road sweep against the Irish back in early January.

“I think they’ve definitely found their groove,” Jackson said. “The first half of the year they played dinged up and had a lot of key injuries. But they started getting a little confidence after Christmas, which stared here when they played us here. They’ve been on a roll. They’ve got good talent up front, a good back end and their goaltender [sophomore Strauss Mann] is playing as well as anyone they’ve had in the last few years.”

Jackson was also asked about the development of some of his younger players this season, including sophomore defenseman Spencer Stastney.

“He’s had a good year this year, and he had a good year as a freshman, but this year we’ve tried to get him a little more offensively engaged,” Jackson said. “We’ve got him playing the point on one of our power plays, and we’re trying to get him to be more transitional in his skating. I’d like to see him jump into the play more without the puck at times. He can make a rush and he definitely has the skating ability to get back and defend. I think there’s definitely still room for growth, but he’s quietly a leader back there for us.”

Notre Dame will take on Michigan on Friday. Puck drop will be at 6 p.m.

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