Team of the Week: Notre Dame

November 12, 2019 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Irish One of 3 Remaining Unbeatens After Sweeping OSU

by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor (@CHN_AdamWodon)

While going to four straight NCAA tournaments, including Frozen Fours in 2017 and 2018, Notre Dame hasn’t been known for lighting it up in recent years.

Maybe that’s changing this year. The Irish are currently averaging 4.1 goals/game over their first eight games. A few players seem to have taken leaps forward offensively.

That’s one reason Notre Dame is currently 7-0-1, and one of only three unbeaten teams left in the country. And the Irish are the third straight Big Ten team to be named CHN Team of the Week.

However, it’s also still too early to say. Some of those goals were racked up against lesser competition in the first four games, 21 goals in wins against Air Force and Lake Superior State.

Still, the Irish have shown the ability to score when they needed to. And even though last weekend’s games were lower scoring than the early-season games, Notre Dame’s prowess was on display when it was really needed.

Stepping up in class, Notre Dame rallied and won late in both Friday’s and Saturday’s games against Ohio State. The wins were 3-2 in overtime, and 2-1, with both coming at home.

“It’s a good thing if it continues to happen. We’ve had teams in the past that had that ability to come back,” Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said.

Indeed it has. That was a particular characteristic of the two Frozen Four teams. This bodes well going forward. Though Notre Dame would prefer not to get in these holes, it does seem to relish in rallying from them.

Friday, Ohio State took a 2-1 lead with under four minutes to play. But that’s when Trevor Janicke, a freshman and fifth-round NHL Draft pick, stepped up to tie the game in the closing minutes. He then got a secondary assist on the overtime game winner. It was the fourth straight game Janicke had scored.

That streak was snapped Saturday, but again, Notre Dame got scoring from all over. After getting outplayed in the second period and falling behind, the Irish broke through on a goal from Jake Pivonka in the third period. Pivonka, a third-round pick of the New York Islanders, had just two goals as a freshman, but that was his third of this season.

“That’s critical for any good team, you gotta have depth scoring. But you also have guys that step up in big moments,” Jackson said. “What did we have at the end, we had two sophomores and a freshman on the ice up front.”

Another key sophomore, Cam Burke, got on the scoresheet after that, and gave Notre Dame a 2-1 win.

“It was a real heart to heart,” Jackson said about the second intermission. “There wasn’t any screaming and yelling, because I did that on the bench during the period because I wasn’t particularly happy with how we were playing. So, I told them it’s in your hands, you guys handle it. And they did.

“When you’re playing a really good team like Ohio State, they force you go turn pucks over. They’re a really well-coached team, they’re a really good defensive team. They play to a strength. So you have to play a very, very patient game, and it’s hard for kids this age to play patient a full 60 minutes. I think we lost our patience a little bit in the second period, but I thought we got it back in the third. Once we scored and tied the game, I thought our energy picked up on the bench and everything started going in a positive direction.”

Meanwhile, goaltender Cale Morris is getting better and better each week, after missing the first three games of the season with an undisclosed injury. Morris had a .944 save percentage as a sophomore, then .930 last year. So far, he’s under .920 this season, but on the upswing.

“He’s getting better with each passing week,” Jackson said. “He was literally off the ice for three weeks, so it’s like training camp all over again. But we’re giving him extra work in goalie sessions, and with game time, he’s getting more and more confidence in the way he plays. He’s the backbone of this team.”

Morris, who started out slowly in his return when he allowed four goals to Lake Superior, but has dialed it in since then, was named the Big Ten’s third star of the week.

“Our entire team is building each week in practice, and we’re going day by day and taking steps forward. So it’s an exciting time,” Morris said. “I love this group. We’re pretty resilient. We don’t get too frazzled, show a lot of maturity, and stick to our process and wear teams down.”

The team now heads to Wisconsin for a pair this coming weekend, representing another challenge.

“They’re one of the best offensive teams in the country,” Jackson said of the Badgers. “Wisconsin is more like Penn State than anybody. They’re going to be a real challenge for us. They’re going to pressure us in a different way.”

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