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Thursday, June 13, 2024
The Observer

Hockey: Injuries an issue as Notre Dame prepares for Western Michigan

The injury-ravaged Irish received both good and bad news as they travel to Western Michigan for a pivotal CCHA series this weekend.

The good news: junior defenseman Teddy Ruth returns to the lineup, increasing the depth on the back line significantly.

"Getting another defenseman certainly will help us," Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. "Teddy will give us a little bit of reasonable ice time from the guys who have been playing a lot of minutes."

The bad news: junior center Ben Ryan is out for a few weeks because of a separated shoulder, keeping the injured tally at six players.

"Losing another forward in Ben Ryan is going to be tough to deal with," Jackson said. "Especially with [sophomore forward Billy] Maday and [senior wing Christiaan] Minella out."
Jackson said there is a chance both Maday and Minella could be back on the ice within three weeks.

But in the meantime, the Irish (12-11-7, 8-8-6-2 CCHA) must prepare to face a Western Michigan squad looking to shed its doormat status. The Broncos (6-15-5, 2-14-4-1) are in last place in the conference, five points behind Bowling Green, Notre Dame's next opponent. While Western Michigan may not have had much success in the conference this season, the Broncos are always poised for a win behind senior goaltender Riley Gill. Gill leads the CCHA with 585 saves.

"[Western Michigan is] a tough place to play. They have a really good goaltender," Jackson said. "They just took Miami (Ohio) to the limit on the weekend at Miami, which is a tough thing to do. A lot of that is their goaltender."

Facing such a goalie as Gill will not help the offensive woes that have plagued the Irish for most of the season. The Irish average 2.41 goals per game in conference play, 10th in the conference. Western Michigan comes in 12th in the category with 2.05 goals per game.

"We are going to have to be willing to win a game 2-1, and do a good job managing the puck and not put our defense or our goaltender in harm's way," Jackson said.
The Irish need to get a win or two, whether it be 2-1 or 6-5, in order to keep pace in the CCHA. Six teams are separated by two points in pursuit of the fourth-place spot for the conference tournament. Currently Notre Dame and Lake Superior State are tied for fourth.

The Irish will attempt to hold onto that position when they take on Western Michigan at Kalamazoo, Mich., Friday and Saturday, at 7:35 p.m. both nights.