After splitting a pair of games with Bowling Green at home last weekend, #9/#9 Notre Dame returned to the Compton Family Ice Arena this evening where it took on #5/#6 Ferris State in a CCHA matchup. Unfortunately for the Fighting Irish, they will have to look for a road victory tomorrow night to salvage the home-and-home series, as they fell to the Bulldogs, 3-0 in front of the sellout home crowd. After a scoreless first, Ferris State got a pair of goals from junior left wing Kyle Bonis in the second period. In the third period, senior center Derek Graham netted a score for the first-place Bulldogs, who improved to 19-8-4 overall, and 13-6-4-1 in the conference. The loss drops the Irish to 16-12-3 overall and 11-9-3 in the CCHA. The teams split a pair of games in December, so the Bulldogs lead the season series 2-1. Just five games remain on the regular season schedule. Notre Dame travels to Oxford, Ohio for two games with Miami next weekend, before closing out February with a home series against Michigan State. But first, head coach Jeff Jackson's squad will seek to split the weekend with Ferris State tomorrow in Big Rapids, Mich. The puck drops a 7:08 pm ET at Ewigleben Arena and you can catch the action live on Comcast Channel 3 in the South Bend area. Matt Shepard, Sean Ritchlin and Rob Otto will have the call. - Josh Flynt ('11)
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It's a hockey night in South Bend! Notre Dame is set to face Ferris State tonight at 7:05 p.m. (ET). Irish UNDerground will have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout tonight's game. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation. Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem. Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.
When Charles "Lefty" Smith came to South Bend in 1968 as the first varsity hockey coach, his process to build a program was much more difficult than people in the modern era can realize. "It was very exciting when they first came to town, actually he and (assistant coach) Tim McNeill both had to start many things here," described Lefty's son Michael Smith. "No one knew how to manage an ice rink at all. They had to teach the Zamboni drivers how to drive the Zamboni around the rink. They had to show them how to lay the concrete floor." "So they had to go through all the rink management, the coaching, and then they had to do public skating and promote that because they had to bring skating to South Bend. They had to launch a figure skating club. They launched the Irish Youth Hockey League, and then they also had to run P.E. classes." Lefty worked at the University for more than 43 years before his retirement several weeks ago. He coached the hockey team for 19 years, earning WCHA Coach of the Year honors in 1973. The Monogram Club dedicated last weekend to memorializing Smith's life, legacy, and impact in the wake of his passing Jan. 3 at the age of 81. More than 40 of his former players came to Notre Dame in support of his family and to participate in the weekend's events, which centered around the weekend series against Bowling Green. "I think everybody knows what he meant to the program as far as the history of the program," head coach Jeff Jackson said. "I'm just grateful that our staff and our team will have the opportunity to spend some time with the Smith family since we didn't have that opportunity when he passed away because we were on the road." The program that Lefty started in 1968 has recently reached new heights, competing in the Frozen Four twice in the last four years. In October the team moved from the Joyce Center to the brand-new Compton Family Ice Arena. The man who led the genesis of the modern hockey program may have built his teams at the Joyce Center, but his name has since been immortalized on the ice of Compton. Since the opening matchup against RPI, the Irish have played all home games on Lefty Smith Rink. "My mom passed away about 26 months ago, she was able to see the recognition that it would be named for him and it was just - she was thrilled for him. We were all thrilled and honored. It was a huge thing," Lefty's daughter, Cheryl Ake, said. "He ate, breathed and lived Notre Dame. So for him to have something named after him on this campus is a huge thing for him and for us as a family." The rink was named after Lefty Smith because of a donation made by the family of John Boler, who wanted to memorialize the former coach and family friend. "My dad and myself and my sister - we had been talking forever about wanting to do something for Lefty," said John's son, Matt Boler. "He made an impact on so many people in so many different ways beyond hockey. He's just really a tremendous man. Our view is - and mine in particular as an alum of the University - those are the kind of guys the university should celebrate." Lefty's seven children were on the ice to drop the puck on Friday night, and a video commemorated Lefty's legacy during the first intermission. The next game, the Boler family was honored before the game, and all Lefty's former players who came to South Bend for the weekend came on the ice for the intermission. The weekend was reminiscent of one of the reunions Lefty would hold while he was coach. Like those reunions, Saturday featured an alumni game for the former players who returned to campus. "One of the key things for him was always camaraderie that he had with his former players. It was very tight, very close," Michael said. "In his era of the 19 years he was here, he would have a reunion. And those guys would bring their families back and everything for the reunion. Very often with reunions you see the guy alone, but they brought the families along, so it's all about the families for them and the memories that they had together with them." "It was part of the tradition to have an alumni hockey game and then having a dinner on the last night. My dad always was the final speaker of the night to wish them well and thank them for coming and being a part of his life. So it's something really unique and special for all of us." The events gave the Irish players the chance to meet with Smith's family, especially at Saturday night's reception at O'Brien's, the CFIA restaurant. Former players mingled with current athletes to cap the weekend. "It's great for the program," said sophomore forward T.J. Tynan. "Obviously Lefty built the program from the ground up, and it's great to get to meet his family and all the guys that played for him and just get to know the guys that made history here at Notre Dame." All the current Notre Dame players now compete in the upper echelon of the sport in a premier arena, much in thanks to the foundation Lefty laid and the generosity of people like the Bolers. "Now it's an opportunity for us to have an absolutely state-of-the-art facility - great for the players and recruiting, and really wonderful for the fans," Michael said. "When Dad had the chance to really see it and they asked him to come over and paint his name on the ice, he had tears in his eyes." Although "Lefty Fest" was only one weekend, the iconic coach will be remembered long after those two days. Future generations of Irish players will skate on the rink that bears his name and, more importantly, for the program that he built. - Craig Chval ('15)
The Irish icers finish their weekend twindip with Bowling Green tonight at 7:05 p.m. (ET). Irish UNDerground will have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout tonight's game. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation. Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem. Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.
Notre Dame returns to the Compton Family Ice Arena for a two-game set this weekend against Bowling Green. Tonight's action begins at 7:05 p.m. (ET). Irish UNDerground will have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout tonight's game. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation. Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem. Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.
ESPN.com - Jack Swarbrick remembers camping outside the Joyce Center with three of his college buddies his sophomore year of college, hoping to nab top-row, center-ice season tickets for 1973-74 Notre Dame hockey season. In the middle of the night, Swarbrick recalled, a car pulled up, its headlights temporarily blinding him. Legendary Fighting Irish football coach Ara Parseghian stepped out of the vehicle, wondering what the students were up to. Told they were waiting in line for hockey tickets, a confused Parseghian stopped and reminded Swarbrick and his gang that they could just show up in the morning to purchase tickets. "But it was a great atmosphere," Swarbrick, now Notre Dame's athletic director, said with a smile nearly 40 years later. "Even then [it] had a real community feel to it. So it was a little different from the campus events, and just a real fun environment." Swarbrick told the story from O'Brien's, a 250-seat premium club area overlooking the main rink of the two-sheet, $50 million Compton Family Ice Arena, which opened this past October after 19 months of construction. The Irish were in the middle of a 3-1 win over Central Collegiate Hockey Association rival Michigan before a "White Out" crowd of 5,022, the building's fifth sellout in its first 10 games. It's part of Notre Dame's ambitious plan to improve its facilities and increase its national profile. The timing can be seen as either fortuitous or an example of incredible foresight. The Irish are in the midst of their best run of seasons in school history and are coming off a Frozen Four appearance, their second in the last four seasons. All five of their NCAA tournament appearances have come in the last eight seasons. Those not in attendance that night for the Michigan game could have watched the contest live on NBC Sports Network, which airs 16 college hockey games this year and will televise Irish home games beginning in the 2013-14 season. That's when the program will leave the CCHA for Hockey East, bringing along a television deal that will give it, as Swarbrick said during the October announcement, "unprecedented level of national exposure." The realignment dominoes that began to fall throughout college hockey following the creation of a Big Ten hockey conference -- made possible by the September 2010 announcement that Penn State would start a Division I program -- rendered the CCHA on the verge of extinction, leaving Notre Dame with a choice of joining the newly formed National Collegiate Hockey Conference or Hockey East, a New England-based conference that is the home of seven national title winners since 1993. "We all talked about expanding the footprint of Hockey East and taking it from a regional to a national-level conference," said Boston University athletic director Mike Lynch, one of four people on the committee that considered Notre Dame for admission into Hockey East. "We've had our share of national titles here, but it was still clear that Hockey East was a regional affiliation. And I think bringing Notre Dame into the mix creates more of a national profile for everyone in the league."
In a marquee weekend for Notre Dame sports that included an upset of No. 1 Syracuse by the men's basketball team and a 76-43 drubbing of Villanova by the women's hoops squad, the hockey team faced CCHA rival Michigan in a two-game home series. After a split series against the 10th-ranked Wolverines, the Irish had played their eighth straight game against a top-10 opponent, going 4-4 over that span. "Every game we've played since break has been against a top-10 team in the nation, so that's made the guys in the locker room have to be ready for every game," sophomore goalie Steven Summerhays said. "That's kind of the mentality we've had: know that our opponents are just as good as us and we've got to out-create them and out-work them." Goaltending was the story this weekend as Summerhays battled Michigan senior Shawn Hunwick. The Michigan goalie is 10th in the nation in save percentage and first in total saves. The Wolverines also entered the weekend on a nine-game unbeaten streak, presenting quite a challenge for the Irish. Summerhays held his own in the series split, allowing three goals (all power-play) on 55 shots. Hunwick was phenomenal, giving up three scores on 73 shots. On Friday night the Irish sealed the 3-1 victory with Billy Maday's empty net goal, and Summerhays and Hunwick were named the first and second stars of the game, respectively. "It was one of those nights when you're seeing pucks. The defense was doing a great job of clearing guys out in front," Summerhays said after the game. "So just seeing pucks - watching them into my glove and blocker - was a big help." The Irish surrendered two power-play goals in the first period of game two, but answered quickly in the second with a goal by Austin Wuthrich. However, Hunwick stopped everything after that, ending with 38 saves and only one goal. "He saw the puck well this weekend," said sophomore forward Anders Lee, who earned an assist on Wuthrich's goal. "We tried to get it in his face, and we probably didn't do a good enough of job of that, but he's a good goaltender, and he was able to see around our screens and find it. "I think the biggest thing is you've got to keep shooting because the more shots you get, one's bound to go in. Unfortunately, we didn't do that tonight. He's a great goaltender, and we've got to be able to put some behind him." Although the Irish fell to 1-3 over their last four games with Saturday night's 2-1 loss, head coach Jeff Jackson was pleased with the team's caliber of play, despite missing suspended forward Riley Sheahan. "I thought we played a really good hockey game," Jackson said after the game. "Our special teams could have been better, and that's where you miss a guy like Riley Sheahan. "But the guys that played, I thought they played a really good hockey game. Give kudos to Hunwick. He played extremely well. I think we needed to get more traffic in front of him, but we did a lot of things really well. I was really pleased with our performance tonight." With 10 games remaining in the regular season, the Irish will attempt to improve their stock in the CCHA standings. They currently sit sixth, despite being only five points out of first place. "It will go to the last night, and you may have four teams competing for first place and four teams competing for fifth place," Jackson said. "That's the way our league is right now. You've got eight teams in the top 20 in the country. You know, things don't get easy around here." - Craig Chval ('15)
On Friday and Saturday night, the Notre Dame hockey team will host Michigan for a weekend series at the Compton Family Ice Arena. Both games begin at 7:35 pm ET and can be heard on Real Country 99.9 FM. On television, Friday's game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network, while you can tune into the CBS Sports Network on Saturday. At the 2008 Frozen Four semifinal in Denver, Notre Dame upset the top-ranked Wolverines, 5-4 in overtime on a goal by left winger Calle Ridderwall. Here are the two calls from Notre Dame's thrilling win. First, from ESPN's Gary Thorne, and below, from the late Mike Lockert, the former radio voice of the Fighting Irish hockey team. Which is your favorite?