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October 31, 2012

WMU vs Notre Dame Hockey Preview

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Location: South Bend, IN
Home Arena: Compton Family Ice Arena (Capacity: 5,022)
Head Coach: Jeff Jackson (8th year, 165-98-30)
2011-12 Record: 19-18-3 (12-13-3-0, 8th CCHA)
2012-13 Record: 5-1-0
2012-13 CCHA Record: 2-0-0

Last Season: The Irish started off fairly strong last season. Despite splitting series with defending National Champion Minnesota-Duluth and Ohio State, the Irish went 10-3-3 in the months of October and November, including an 11-game unbeaten streak.

However, the Irish's luck began to turn at the end of the month. Following a loss to Lake Superior State, Notre Dame lost 3 more games in a row against Northeastern (twice) and Ferris State. The Irish would rebound with 3 straight wins to close out their Winter Break.

That's when the Irish's season really took a turn for the worse. They only won four games in the 2nd half of their CCHA season, losing ten. Their 4-10 mark knocked them from a #2 national ranking and a 2nd overall spot at the break to being unranked and 8th in the CCHA. They would sweep a reeling Ohio State team at home in the first round of the CCHA tournament, but would be swept by Michigan in the 2nd round.
Record vs WMU: 1-2-1-0 (4 pts)

This season: The Irish are off to another red-hot start. After winning the Icebreaker Tournament with wins over Maine and Nebraska-Omaha, Notre Dame split a series with Minnesota-Duluth. The Irish then opened CCHA play with a sweep over Northern Michigan in Marquette, where the Wildcats had only lost 2 regular season games all season last year. Notre Dame is relying on defense this year, allowing just 1.67 goals/game.

Fowards: The Irish boast one of the best scoring lines in the nation with a 1-2 punch of Anders Lee and T.J. Tynan. The two have combined to score 4 goals and 9 points so far, and are first and second on the Irish's scoring list. Austin Wuthrich returns as the only other top-5 scorer from last season, and the sophomore has 3 points so far this season. Brian Rust and Peter Schneider also look to add to the scoring, as each has netted 2 goals and an assist.

Defensemen: The Irish have improved their defense from a year ago, when they allowed 2.7 goals/game. Stephen Johns leads the corps as a tough, bruising defenseman. He is joined by the likes of Kevin Lind, Sam Calabrese, Robbie Russo, and Shayne Taker. While fairly young (only 1 senior), the Irish defense is tall, averaging 6'2" among all defenders.

Goaltending: Steven Summerhayes appears to be the main man after a slight slump in the middle of last season along with now-back-up Mike Johnson. Summerhayes is 4-1-0 this season with a 1.61 GAA and a .938 save percentage. Johnson himself is no slouch at all. He has a 2.00 GAA and a .929 save percentage, winning the only game he has played in. Both are very difficult to solve, when on.

Coaching: Notre Dame has one of the best coaches around in Jeff Jackson. Jackson has 3 National Championship rings, including 2 has head coach of LSSU in 1992 and 1994. As a head coach, he has been to 5 Frozen Fours, including 2 with the Irish, and has completely turned Notre Dame from a former bottom-dweller in the CCHA to a perennial contender.

Prediction: This will be the toughest test the Broncos have faced thus far. A road test versus a top-10 team is something that is very difficult for any team, let alone one that is about to start their defense of their CCHA title. Compton Ice Arena is not as formidable a place though, as most of the fans are either alumni in box seats, family, or on some rare occasions. . . students.

Both teams still are struggling to score, and feature stout defenses. In this match-up, it is pretty much a draw. However, we here at Bronco Blitz feel like due to Notre Dame's 1-2 duo of Tynan and Lee, they take 4 of 6 points on the weekend, with the Broncos winning a shootout.

The games will be on Friday and Sunday at 7:30 and 5 pm respectively. There will be no game on Saturday due to the home football game and limited parking.

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