Who: Notre Dame (5-2-3) at Massachusetts-Lowell (8-1-2)
When: 7:15 p.m. ET tonight; 7:05 p.m. ET Friday
Where: Tsognas Center; Lowell, Mass. (6,496)
Radio: 99.9 FM (WHFB)
Few teams have stymied Notre Dame hockey the last few seasons like its opponent this weekend.
No. 15 Notre Dame heads to No. 5 Massachusetts-Lowell for a two-game Hockey East series against a one-sided rival. The Irish are 6-1-1 against River Hawks, with those games played since the 2013-14 season.
Notre Dame’s only win came 4-2 during last season’s Hockey East playoffs. Lowell ended up winning the best-of-three series anyway.
“They're a very structured team,” said head coach Jeff Jackson. “They play four lines. They run four lines. They change quickly, so they out-shift you. They’re very disciplined in the way they play. They do a lot of things really well and they’ve got heavy players. That’s the new terminology these days. They just have heavy players.
“They’re strong over the puck. They’re strong physically. They get to the net hard. They’re like playing a pro team. That’s the way they play the game.”
Lowell enters the series with an 8-1-2 record overall and unbeaten mark (4-0-2) in Hockey East. That has the River Hawks on top of the league with 10 points in six games.
Goaltender Kevin Boyle is fourth nationally with a 1.26 goals-against average and fifth with save percentage (.957), including three shutouts. Notre Dame is no stranger to those, having been held without a goal three times against Lowell in the last few seasons.
But there’s some reason for optimism — the Irish managed eight goals in the final two games of last season’s playoff series, double what they had mustered in the previous six matchups.
“They play their system flawlessly,” said winger Thomas DiPauli. “Ever since I’ve been here, every time we play them, they play the same system. They beat teams by executing and doing the little things. We’ve been working all week on ways to crack their system. I think with our speed and our skill level, I think we have a good chance of cracking them.”
Jackson will try to redistribute some of that team speed.
After rolling with mostly the same forward line combinations during the first month of the season, Jackson confirmed plans to move some pieces around heading into the Lowell series. Notably, the all-senior line centered by Steven Fogarty with Sam Herr and Mario Lucia on the wings is no more.
Fogarty, Lucia and Herr have eight goals combined this season and a cumulative minus-8 rating. Lucia has just two through eight games.
How those lines will shake out isn’t something Jackson wants to reveal until tonight.
“I was just trying to get more speed on their line,” he said. “All three guys, they’re not slow but they’re not fast. So, trying to add a little speed to that line. Trying to have a little speed on each line as opposed to two lines that have speed and two don’t. Just trying to get a little more speed on that line to see if it helps open things up.”
Malmquist status up in the air
Freshman winger Dylan Malmquist may not be in the Notre Dame lineup this weekend.
Malmquist took a rough hit into the boards last Saturday against Northeastern, which ended with him heading to the locker room. He returned to practice this week but wasn’t taking contact as of Wednesday.
“Still 50-50,” Jackson said.
Malmquist leads the team with five goals in eight games.