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    Following Flynt - Irish Close Out Rollercoaster Year

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    It's been an eventful year for head coach Jeff Jackson's Notre Dame hockey squad. The icers began the 2011-12 campaign way back in mid-October. After a series at Minnesota-Duluth and a pair of home games against Ohio State, the Irish bid farewell to hockey in the Joyce Center.

    They opened the state-of-the-art Compton Family Ice Arena on Oct. 21 against Rensselaer, winning the inaugural game 5-2, thanks in part to a hat trick from sophomore Anders Lee.

    On Nov. 18, the dedication game at CFIA, #4 Notre Dame defeated third-ranked Boston College, 3-2, in an absolute classic. Sophomore Bryan Rust scored with 1.1 seconds left in overtime, lifting the Irish to victory and sending the sellout crowd into chaos.

    Perfectly enough, NASCAR Media Group was in town that weekend to follow the hockey program for its one-hour feature, "Onward to Victory - Notre Dame Hockey," a special that first aired on Versus (now NBC Sports Network) on New Year's Eve.

    On Jan. 7, Notre Dame won its first game at #5/#3 Minnesota since Nov. 1980 - a win that looked like a spark for the rest of the regular season - but the team has gone just 3-9-0 since that victory.

    This weekend, the Fighting Irish will close out the schedule with a home series against Michigan State.

    After dropping its last five contests, Notre Dame has fallen into a tie for eighth in the conference standings and out of the USA Today/American Hockey Magazine poll (The team is still ranked 18th in the USCHO.com poll). Still, the Irish are in the running for the final home-ice spot for next weekend's CCHA best-of-three first-round playoffs - and just remember, anything can happen in the postseason.

    Michigan State, on the other hand, is fourth in the conference, and enters the weekend having won five of its last six games.

    The Spartans hold a 59-38-11 series advantage, but the Irish are 7-0-3 in the last ten head-to-head matchups, and have not lost to MSU since Jan. 2008.

    Notre Dame holds the tiebreaker advantage with Northern Michigan in the CCHA standings, so the Irish control their own destiny for the final home-ice spot.

    The puck drops at 8:37 pm ET on Friday night and the game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network. Saturday's "Senior Night" game begins at 7:38 pm ET on Comcast Channel 3 in the South Bend area. We'll also have you covered with a live blog right here on Irish UNDerground.

    - Josh Flynt ('11)

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