Oct. 23, 2013
Notre Dame, Ind. -
For the first time in the 2013-14 season, the Notre Dame hockey team takes to the road for a weekend series as the Irish head to northern Minnesota to face the University of Minnesota Duluth. The Irish and the Bulldogs will meet twice at 7:07 p.m. (CT) at AMSOIL Arena on Fri.-Sat., October 25-26. In fact, this series is the first of back-to-back road series for Notre Dame as the Irish open Hockey East play next weekend at Vermont.
This is the third consecutive year that Notre Dame and Minnesota Duluth have met on the ice since meeting in the Frozen Four on April 7, 2011 in St. Paul, Minn., at the Xcel Center in a game won by the Bulldogs, 4-3. Ten members of the current Irish roster were on the ice for that contest.
In all, the two teams have met 37 times in the all-time series with Notre Dame holding a 20-13-4 advantage. At Duluth, the Irish own a 12-4-2 record. They have played one series at AMSOIL Arena (2011-12) with each team winning once. Last year, the two teams opened Notre Dame's home schedule at the Compton Family Ice Arena with a split. The Bulldogs won the series opener on Oct. 18, 3-1, before the Irish won game two, 4-1.
The Irish come into the game with a 4-0-0 record and are ranked second in both the USA Today/U.S. Hockey Magazine polls. They are 3-0-0 at home and 1-0-0 on the road with the lone game away from home played at Western Michigan (Oct. 12).
Minnesota Duluth is 2-1-1 on the young season and is coming off a weekend split at Colorado College on Oct. 18-19. That series was the league opener for the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC). The Tigers won the series opener, 3-1, with the Bulldogs taking the second game, 5-1, last Saturday.
Head coach Jeff Jackson looks forward to his team getting on the road and playing a strong team like Minnesota Duluth.
"It's (Duluth) a great environment to play in. Duluth has a great crowd and a good building. It will be a fun environment to play in," says Jackson, now in his ninth year behind the Irish bench.
"They (Minnesota Duluth) are a high-tempo team, a speed team and that will force us to play at a high speed. I would be surprised if there are the same kinds of penalties that we saw last weekend. It will be a much different kind of game and our guys look forward to playing that type of game. We need to be disciplined and try to possess the puck as much as possible to be successful."
With the Hockey East schedule in front of him and the style of play that Notre Dame will face in the conference, Jackson knows that the game the Bulldogs will play is the style that can benefit the Irish.
"Any time that you play high-tempo teams it helps you. You are forced to make plays at a higher pace and a higher speed," explains Jackson.
" The biggest challenge that we will have is just making plays under pressure because they will apply pressure in different ways because they are a fast team."
THE STATE OF HOCKEY
For three members of the Notre Dame hockey team, this weekend's road trip is actually a trip home. Minnesota natives Steven Fogarty (So., Edina, Minn.), Mario Lucia (So., Plymouth, Minn.) and freshman Ben Ostlie (Edina, Minn.) while not from the Duluth area, will get a chance to see family and friends as they return to the place known as The State of Hockey.
"It's great to be able to get a chance to play at home," says Fogarty.
"Even Duluth - played there numerous time when I was little and it one of the nicest cities in Minnesota. It's fun to go back and play kids that I grew up playing against and I haven't had a chance to play in their (Minnesota Duluth's) home new rink, so I am excited to do that. My family doesn't get down here that much, so to be able to have them come and able to watch me play is nice."
While the three Minnesotans will have the chance to return to their native state, Jackson says the Irish will continue to play in The State of Hockey and recruit there too.
"We need to stay in Minnesota. We recruit there and have gotten some good players out of the state and I don't want to stop," Jackson states.
"We want to keep going back. We will continue to play Duluth and Minnesota for the next couple of years. And we'll look into playing St. Cloud and Minnesota State down the road. We want to continue to play teams in the state."
Senior defenseman Shayne Taker (Surrey, B.C.) is off to the best start of his Notre Dame career, scoring a goal with four assists for five points this season to lead the Irish blue line in scoring. As one of the quarterbacks of the Irish power play, Taker is showing the ability to get pucks through to the front of the net where his forwards are able to get them past opposing goaltenders. He is playing with a level of confidence that has allowed him to elevate his play on the ice.
"Confidence is everything at this level," says the 23-year old Taker.
"We have six-to-eight defensemen here that skill-wise, aren't very far apart. Having confidence in yourself to take those shots or make those passes and risky plays is important. Confident players make more risky plays and trusting your abilities is a big thing."
In the 7-3 win over Michigan Tech on Oct. 20, Taker scored his first goal of the season on a play that is a great example of making the most of his ability to put the puck on the net. Fellow senior Mike Voran (Livonia, Mich.) moved the puck along the left boards to the left point where Taker held it in. With Irish forwards heading to the front of the Huskies' goal, the Surrey, B.C. native took a step or two towards the goal and snapped a wrist shot that sailed past the screen in front and found the back of the net behind goaltender Jamie Phillips at 1:46 of the second period.
"Shayne's goal against Michigan Tech is an excellent example of getting pucks to the net," says Jackson.
"He has the ability to get the puck through to the net and it's deflectable. If it gets through and he's looking for sticks and we have guys in front, then we can score more goals like that. Those are the kind of plays that our defensemen need to be able to make to generate more offense from the blue line."
Getting pucks to the net is something that Taker worked on this past summer.
"I really didn't put a ton on that shot," the 6-4, 208-pound blue liner said in describing his first goal of the season.
"Sometimes, where you put it is important too. This summer, I worked with a shooting instructor in Vancouver who works with NHLers. Mainly we just set up screens and chaos in front and just worked on getting shots through. There is a time and place for a slap shot and there is definitely a better time for a snap shot. It's quicker, you get a better release and you can look up longer when you take it. That's what I did on that goal versus Michigan Tech."
FROM BURLINGTON TO PROVIDENCE TO ORONO - A LOOK AROUND HOCKEY EAST
Going into this weekend's action, five Hockey East schools - Notre Dame (2), Boston College (5), Providence (8), New Hampshire (13) and Boston University (14) - were ranked in the USA Today/U.S. Hockey Magazine's Top 15 ... the USCHO.com poll had seven teams - Notre Dame (2), Boston College (5), Providence (8), Boston University (13), New Hampshire (14), UMass.-Lowell (18) and Northeastern (20) in its top 20 ... the University of Vermont plays this weekend (Oct. 26) in Philadelphia, Pa., versus the Penn State Nittany Lions at the Wells Fargo Center, the home of the 2014 Frozen Four ... the game is set for 5:00 p.m. and is a rematch of last season's inaugural Philadelphia College Hockey Faceoff, a game that Penn State won 4-2 ... Boston University sophomore defenseman Ahti Oksanan had a hand in seven of BU's first nine goals this season, scoring once while adding six assists...he leads all defensemen in the nation in scoring through the second week of the season ... Maine head coach "Red" Gendron won his first game behind the Black Bears bench in the 2-1 win over Bentley at Alfond Arena last Saturday ... both Maine goals came off the stick of Stu Higgins who had scored just four goals in his first 75 games in a Black Bears uniform ... Boston College has scored 17 goals in its first three games this season, the most in a three-game span since the 2002-03 season. For the year, the Eagles' offense is leading the nation in scoring with 5.67 goals per game ... junior forward Johnny Gaudreau notched his 100th career point in his 82nd career game in the 9-2 win over Wisconsin. He now has 44 goals and 58 assists for 102 points ... Massachusetts saw its power play go 5-for-13 last weekend in 3-1 and 5-2 wins over Michigan State. The Minutemen power play ranks second in the nation with a 32% success rate and its eight power-play goals also rank second nationally ... Northeastern freshman forward Mike Szmatula had his first career goal on Oct. 19 versus Holy Cross. He has one goal and seven assists for eight points in his first four games with the Huskies ... Northeastern is 4-0-0 to start the season for the first time since the 1993-94 season and is one of five remaining unbeaten teams in the nation ... Providence College scored 10 goals in a game in its 10-4 win over American International College since Oct. 12, 2002 (and 11-0 win over Iona) ... PC has opened the season with a 3-0-0 mark for the first time since 2003 ... junior forward Ross Mauerman had scored once and had career highs in assists (3) and points (4) in that game.