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Irish Connection - Episode 33

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A crutch, a Skip, a bus and a pond.

Wild Weekend

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For those who will be around Notre Dame this weekend, prepare for the craziness that's about to hit campus. Over a 48-hour period from Friday through Sunday evening, there are eleven varsity athletic events scheduled at the university.

Here's a quick look at the schedule:

Friday:
Men's Tennis vs. William & Mary at 6 p.m.
Hockey vs. #15 Michigan at 7:35 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)

Saturday:
Indoor Track Notre Dame Invitational at 10 a.m.
Women's Basketball vs. Villanova at 1 p.m. (UND.com)
Women's Tennis vs. Cincinnati at 1 p.m.
Women's Swimming vs. Michigan State at 2 p.m.
Men's Swimming vs. Michigan State at 2 p.m.
Men's Basketball vs. #1 Syracuse at 6 p.m. (ESPN)
Hockey vs. #15 Michigan at 7:35 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Sunday:
Women's Tennis vs. Missouri at 11 a.m.
Women's Tennis vs. IPFW at 5 p.m.

There won't be any tailgating, Knights of Columbus steak sandwiches or team walk to the stadium, but the amount of traffic on campus might make it feel more like a football Saturday than a mid-winter weekend.

Fighting Irish Xtra

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It Was a Good Day

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Lucia Has Fond Memories of Lefty Smith

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donlucia.jpg Star Tribune - Gophers coach Don Lucia played for Lefty Smith when Lucia was a defenseman at Notre Dame from 1977-81.

So Lucia was among the many saddened to hear that Smith died on Tuesday night of natural causes at his home in South Bend, Ind. "Everybody that knows Lefty loved him," Lucia said.

Smith coached the Irish for 19 years from 1968 to 1987 and, until retiring last month, was the facility manager of the school's Loftus Sports Center.

"Lefty was not only the hockey coach but he spent more time there not coaching than coaching," Lucia said. "In many ways he was almost an ambassador at Notre Dame.

"When you went in his office, as he managed the football center, you couldn't see the walls. All you saw were pictures of former players and families. That is just the kind of person he was."

Smith, who would have turned 82 on Thursday, had a 307-320-30 record at Notre Dame. His teams were WCHA runners-up in 1973 and '77. He was the WCHA coach of the year in 1973.

Smith's hockey roots were in Minnesota. He graduated from the College at St. Thomas in 1951 and from 1953 to '68 was an assistant and then a head coach at South St. Paul High School.

"He is one of those throwback guys," Lucia said, "and obviously, he is very well connected to our state with his South St. Paul roots and coaching Doug Woog" in high school.

Woog was the Gophers coach that Lucia succeeded in 1999-2000.

Smith knew both Herb Brooks and John Mariucci well, Lucia said, adding; "He's told some good stories playing with John Mariucci [for] the old Millers back in the day."

The Minneapolis Millers were a semi-pro hockey team.

"It is amazing the names and the people that he [knew]," Lucia said.

The rink at Notre Dame's new Compton Family Ice Arena is named in honor of Smith.

The Notre Dame Club of Minnesota had planned to hold a dinner at the University Hotel Minneapolis on Friday to honor Lefty Smith. It undoubtedly will still be held, but will be a more emotional event. Lucia and Irish coach Jeff Jackson are among the scheduled speakers. Tuesday was the deadline for buying tickets.

Charles "Lefty" Smith

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275941700-04081136.jpg
January 5, 1930 - January 3, 2012

Twas the Night Before Christmas ...

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Hear It From a Student - I Love Winning

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1993385220.jpg"I love winning. It's like, you know, better than losing!"

The Notre Dame hockey team can probably sympathize with Nuke LaLoosh, Tim Robbins' character in Bull Durham.

From Oct. 21 to Nov. 25, the Irish went 11 games without losing, playing six ranked teams during that span. A four-game losing streak dropped them to 10-6-3 heading into last Saturday's home game against Ferris State.

The Bulldogs won their end of the home-and-home Friday night, 4-1, but Notre Dame returned the favor Saturday with the same score.

"I think it's a relief for all of us - for our players, for us as a staff," head coach Jeff Jackson said. "After having such a good stretch, the last four games have been pretty miserable."

The Irish were able to revert to their winning ways in a physical game that featured a healthy dose of special teams play. The officials penalized players for a combined 68 minutes, and it was a rare sight to see the boxes empty. The Irish were able to capitalize on two power plays with goals from sophomores Jeff Costello and T.J. Tynan.

"Special teams probably was the biggest difference. Goaltending's a part of that on the penalty kill, but it's also about the power play," Jackson said. "That's what we were doing when we were on a little bit of a roll."

Jackson credited goaltender Steven Summerhays, who kept the Irish ahead during the third period in his fifth start this season. The sophomore improved to 4-1 on the season. With a two-goal lead through most of the third period, Summerhays had several tremendous stops to keep the cushion.

"This was definitely up there for one of my better games for Notre Dame," Summerhays said. "Everyone pitched in and really helped and made me look better than I probably was tonight."

In addition to special teams and goaltending, Notre Dame was successful at accomplishing the little things the team had been successful at during the unbeaten streak. Riley Sheahan's 88 percent face-off advantage increased puck possession. Both Jackson and Summerhays pointed to defensive presence in front of the net, and the Irish were able to get off 63 shot attempts to generate offense.

Hopefully the team will remember the winning formula when it returns from a three-week break for finals and Christmas.

"It was a huge win. Obviously we were on a little bit of a skid and we knew that going into break, we didn't want to go in with another loss," said sophomore Mike Voran, who netted two third-period goals. "You always want to go into a break with a positive note, so having a win, you obviously feel a lot better than if you lost."

In the midst of a frustrating losing streak, Jackson's team proved the ability to win a chippy game by getting back to basics and staying disciplined. With secondary scoring, physical presence, defensive stoutness, and strong goaltending, the Irish can make the proper adjustments to rebound from a skid.

It's like, you know, better than losing.

- Craig Chval ('15)

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Live Chat - Hockey vs. Ferris State

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The Irish icers look to start a new home winning streak tonight when Notre Dame welcomes Ferris State to the Compton Family Ice Arena.

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.

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Recent Comments

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  • Zachary Barredo: Hi, what type of air playne it was there!? read more
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  • tom matthews: Notre Dame's football team is fast becoming unwatchable. The current team has not improved since game one. Penalties and turnovers read more
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