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Fighting Irish Xtra

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Plenty of Hockey To Go Around

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With just six weeks left in the NHL regular season, teams are preparing to make a late surge in the hopes of securing playoff positioning. Here's a look at the former Notre Dame hockey players who are a part of the madness ...

Veteran defenseman Mark Eaton ('98) has seen significant ice time for the Islanders this year. His lone goal of the season came during overtime in his 600th career NHL game on Feb. 3 against the Senators.

Defenseman Brett Lebda ('04) came off injured reserve last week and has returned to the Blue Jackets roster. Despite being undrafted out of Notre Dame, Lebda scored his first goal during his NHL debut on opening day in 2005 and contributed to the Red Wings' Stanley Cup run in 2008.

The Islanders placed right winger Tim Wallace ('07) on waivers this week. His 31 games this year are almost double his previous career high (16).

Senators right winger Erik Condra ('08) had an assist Monday, contributing to Ottawa's 6-0 win over the Islanders. Condra has seven goals and 14 assists with a solid 12 +/- in his first full season in the NHL.

St. Louis recalled defenseman Ian Cole ('10) Friday from AHL Peoria. The former first-round pick has one goal and three assists in his last 10 NHL games.

Although the spotlight is on the NHL, there are a few former Irish players who hope to be the future of their franchises. Here's a glimpse through the AHL ...

Having played one game for the Vancouver Canucks this season, right winger Victor Oreskovich ('06) has contributed 12 points in 28 games for the AHL Chicago Wolves.

Right winger Kyle Palmieri ('10) has played with both the AHL Syracuse Crunch and the NHL Anaheim Ducks this season. Currently on the Crunch's roster, Palmieri has scored an impressive 30 goals and 16 assists in only 34 AHL games.

Having made his NHL debut Oct. 31, winger Ryan Thang ('10) has netted 24 points in 50 games for the Milwaukee Admirals, the Nashville AHL affiliate.

- Craig Chval ('15)

Live Chat - Hockey vs. Michigan State

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Notre Dame looks to make it two in a row as it seeks a win tonight over Michigan State.

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.

Following Flynt - Great Night at Compton

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Photo courtesy of @MGolicJR57

In front of a sellout crowd at Compton Family Ice Arena, Notre Dame got an important 2-0 victory over Michigan State in its second-to-last game of the regular season.

After a scoreless first period, sophomore Jeff Costello netted his fourth goal of the season, giving the Fighting Irish a 1-0 lead, 2:31 into the second frame. Sophomore Shayne Taker and freshman Austin Wuthrich were credited with assists on the power play score.

Just before the midpoint of the final period, freshman Peter Schneider scored his first goal of the season, on an assist from junior Kevin Nugent. The insurance goal gave Notre Dame a 2-0 advantage, and sealed the team's first win since Feb 3. (The Irish had lost five straight since defeating Bowling Green, 2-1, three weeks ago.)

Sophomore Steven Summerhays stopped 25 shots, becoming the first Notre Dame goalie to record a shutout since Dec. 13, 2009, when Mike Johnson registered 38 saves against Michigan.

Kickoff in Dublin is months away, but for the second time in three days, several members of the Notre Dame football team were making headlines. On Saturdays in the fall, they may reach a celebrity status, playing in front of 80,795 and millions more on national television. But this week, the Irish football players themselves were the ones in the crowd, reminding us that at the end of the day, they're students and fans, just like the rest of us.

After being courtside at Purcell Pavilion for the men's basketball game on Wednesday, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Mike Golic Jr., Matt Mulvey and Mike Grieco were right against the glass cheering on their fellow student-athletes.

Sporting the same floppy hat that intimidated the Mountaineers earlier in the week, Lewis-Moore may have also earned himself a spot on the Notre Dame cheerleading squad. The senior defensive end raised a big yellow "Go Irish!" sign and rallied the Notre Dame student body throughout the evening.

Golic, Grieco and Mulvey, along with a few other football players, were into the game from the opening faceoff, even bringing along some homemade signs to show their support for the Irish icers.

A big win for Irish hockey, a great night at Compton, and an awesome reminder of what makes Notre Dame a special university.

The Fighting Irish will be back tomorrow night against the Spartans at 7:35 pm ET for the regular season finale. Catch the game on Comcast Channel 3, as Notre Dame looks to clinch home ice for the first round of the CCHA playoffs.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Live Chat - Hockey vs. Michigan State

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It's a hockey night in South Bend! Notre Dame is set to face Michigan State tonight at 8:35 p.m. (ET).

Irish UNDerground will have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout tonight's game. It will also be televised on CBS Sports Network. 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.

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)

Following Flynt - Irish Drop Series Opener at Home

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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)

ICON 35: Inside Irish Hockey's Workout Routine

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Live Chat - Hockey vs. Ferris State

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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.

Hear It From a Student - Lefty Fest

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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)

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Event Calendar

January 31
W, 85-62
Wake Forest
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)
RECAP

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WatchESPN
HALFTIME PERFORMANCE: Christian Stoinev & Scooby
January 31
W, 5-2
Illinois
Notre Dame, Ind. (Eck Tennis Pavilion)
RECAP

WatchND Tennis
Live Stats
January 31
W, 7-0
Bowling Green
Notre Dame, Ind. (Eck Tennis Pavilion)
RECAP

WatchND Tennis
Live Stats
January 31
All Day
Alumni Match
Orlando, Fla. (Walt Disney World Resort)
January 31
W 6-0, M 6-0
Northwestern Duals
Notre Dame, IN (Castellan Family Fencing Center)
RECAP
February 1
6:00 PM
Duke
Durham, N.C. (Cameron Indoor Stadium)

ESPN2 - Big Monday
Pulse FM 96.9 92.1 WatchND
WatchND
Watch ESPN
Live Stats
February 3
7:00 PM
Miami
BankUnited Center

ESPN2
WatchND
Watch ESPN
February 4
7:00 PM
North Carolina State
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ESPN3
Pulse FM (96.9/92.1)/WatchND
WatchND
February 5
7:00 PM
Illinois
Champaign, Illinois (Atkins Tennis Center)
February 5
7:05 PM
Vermont
Burlington, Vt. (Gutterson Fieldhouse)

WatchND
February 5
TBA
Meyo Invitational
Notre Dame, Ind.
February 6
7:00 PM
North Carolina
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ESPN
WatchND
HALFTIME PERFORMANCE: Red Panda (yes, that Red Panda) PROMOTION: GOLD OUT GIVEAWAY: Gold Poms (All), Gold T-shirts (Students)
February 6
4:00 PM
Jacksonville
Jacksonville, Fla. (D.B. Milne Field)

ESPN3
Live Stats
February 6
7:05 PM
Vermont
Burlington, Vt. (Gutterson Fieldhouse)

WatchND
February 6
All Day
Duke Duals
Durham, N.C.
February 6
TBA
Meyo Invitational
Notre Dame, Ind.
February 7
2:00 PM
Louisville
Louisville, Ky. (KFC Yum! Center)

ESPN2
Pulse FM (96.9/92.1)/WatchND
WatchND
February 7
12:00 PM
Indiana
Notre Dame, Ind. (Eck Tennis Pavilion)

WatchND Tennis
Live Stats
February 7
5:30 PM
Ball State
Notre Dame, Ind. (Eck Tennis Pavilion)

WatchND Tennis
Live Stats
February 8
9:00 PM
Clemson
Bon Secours Wellness Arena

ESPNU
WatchND
February 8
All Day
Yestingsmeier Match Play
Dade City, Fla. (Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club)
February 9
All Day
Yestingsmeier Match Play
Dade City, Fla. (Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club)

St. Joseph Health System Medifast Delta Canon Visit South Bend Mishawaka