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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
The Observer

Hockey: Irish open four-game homestand against Lakers

If their games from earlier this season are any indication, Notre Dame's series against Lake Superior State could be over quicker than you can say, "He shoots, he scores."The Irish (5-3-1, 4-3-1 in the CCHA) and the Lakers (4-3-3, 2-3-1) are the first and second least penalized teams in the CCHA, respectively, as well as two of the least penalized teams in the nation. With fewer whistles and stoppages of play, the games are over much faster."I think [fewer penalties] are a sign of discipline and I think the way both teams play, that's what we'll have to conquer, is the disciplined play of Lake State," Irish head coach Dave Poulin said. "I think you're going to see a heck of a game; I'd much rather it be 5-on-5 than a special-teams-fest, no question."The Irish are off to their fastest start since the 1998-99 season, when the team opened the season with a 7-1-1 record. The Lakers have been equally hot, going 2-0-1 in their last three years.Lake Superior State is a team that has had a history of success in the college hockey world, including winning the national championship in the 1988-89 season. Head coach Frank Anzalone led the team to four NCCA Final Four appearances from the years 1982-1990. Anzalone then left the college ranks for a professional career, but returned to the Laker bench in the 2001-02 season, in which the Lakers went 8-27-2 - a far cry from their dominant 80's teams. Now in the third year of his second stint with Lake Superior State, the team is starting to show signs of reloading.Last season, Notre Dame won both matches against Anzalone's Lakers by 3-2 and 6-3 scores. Poulin serves note that this is not the same cellar-dwelling team as Anzalone's teams in 2001 and 2002 were."We showed our players film, and it was pretty evident in the film that Lake State is playing pretty well right now," Poulin said. "I think we have a lot of respect for them, and certainly bringing back a coach who had a lot of success has given that team something to feed off."They're going to be perhaps even more disciplined and play even harder now that they've actually won a few games here recently."Notre Dame is coming off a 4-0 exhibition win last Friday against the U.S. Under-18 National Developmental Program. Freshman goalie David Brown collected his unofficial fourth shutout of the season, as the exhibition shutout will not count toward his official statistics.Poulin said that he will start Brown on Friday against Lake Superior State, and then make his decision about Saturday's starter after Friday's game.Notre Dame's series against the Lakers is the first of two straight CCHA series at the Joyce Center for the Irish. Poulin stressed the importance of doing well in these four consecutive home matches, especially having opened the season with six of nine games on the road."We have to make this a very difficult building to play in," he said. "We want to make this a building where people look at and say, 'I don't even want to go play there.' The band has been just tremendous at our games - the energy they create is so great and they work so hard at creating noise and being a lively atmosphere."I think it should be a great weekend."Forwards Trent Campbell and Nathan Ward lead the Lakers with seven points each. Like Notre Dame and Brown, the Lakers have a capable freshman netminder in Jeff Jakaitis, who collected his first career shutout last Saturday in a scoreless tie against Bowling Green.Matt Violin is the other member of the Lake Superior State goaltending tandem and played well against the Irish last year in the 3-2 game, making 47 saves in the Lakers' loss. He currently has a 2-3-2 record with a goals-against average of 2.90 and a .877 save percentage.Notre Dame faces Lake Superior State at the Joyce Center this weekend. Faceoff is scheduled for 7:35 p.m. tonight and 7:05 p.m. Saturday.