Irish Illustrated – Penalties kill ND unbeaten streak

Last weekend the Notre Dame hockey team found the recipe for snapping a long unbeaten streak.

The Irish surrendered three power-play goals Saturday in a 5-2 loss to Lake Superior State, settling for a series split and the end of their 11-game unbeaten streak. Previous to that they hadn’t lost since Oct. 15 against Ohio State.

Meltdown of the penalty kill in any given game almost assures a negative result.

“Things just happen,” defenseman Shayne Taker said. “Little things can easily breakdown on penalty kill like chances to get the puck out. That creates confusion. Once there’s a scramble down low if you don’t get the puck out people are out of position, people get confused where to go. It’s just really minor things like that.”

Losing its most recent game aside, Notre Dame has been in an extended stretch of success that has it ranked No. 2 nationally and sitting atop the Central Collegiate Hockey Association standings by one point.

In case the Irish needed a reminder of how difficult it will be to capture the league championship the national polls this week will serve as a reminder.

Five conference teams are ranked in the top 15 of the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll. The poll lists 20 teams and has eight from the CCHA ranked. That means the top eight teams in the league standings are all ranked in one poll or another.

Needless to say it will be a long, tough road for whichever programs wins the league.

“Any team in this conference can win any night,” winger Anders Lee said. “It’s gonna be a battle every weekend. We’ve just gotta stay focused and be excited about the future. You can’t let a game slip by.”

This weekend Notre Dame (10-3-3) will step outside of its conference schedule to host Hockey East opponent Northeastern in a two-game series. The first game is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Friday at the Compton Family Ice Arena.

Northeastern (4-7-2) is one of three Hockey East teams on the schedule this season — the Irish beat Boston College in overtime on Nov. 18 and will host Boston University on Dec. 31 — and will be similar in style to the others.

Hockey East is Notre Dame’s future conference, so the style of play is a preview of things to come.

“They look like a typical Hockey East team with the up-tempo style,” head coach Jeff Jackson said. “Good forwards, real good goaltender. They’re a patient team defensively and yet they have some good offense transition-wise. They’re gonna be a pretty good challenge for us.”

Around the boards

Notre Dame dealt with some other issues outside inability to kill penalties last Saturday.

Three forwards sat the game against Lake Superior State for disciplinary reasons, Jackson said. Nick Larson took a 10-minute misconduct for verbal abuse of an official during Friday’s game and paid for that transgression by watching from the stands.

Jackson benched Mike Voran and David Gerths after they missed a team meeting Saturday morning.

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