Who: Notre Dame (8-4-4) at No. 3 Boston College (13-1-1)
When: 7:05 p.m. tonight
Where: Conte Forum; Chestnut Hill, Mass. (7,884)
Radio: 99.9 FM (WHFB)
Three wins in a row has the Notre Dame hockey team at perhaps its most confident this season.
Consecutive wins against Massachusetts last weekend gave the Irish their first home sweep of the season and moved them into sole possession of third place in Hockey East with 12 points in eight games. Scoring came from all four lines while goalie Cal Petersen allowed two goals on 55 shots faced.
So, Notre Dame feels like it’s ready for another big test as the first half finishes with a single game tonight against No. 3 Boston College.
“I think we have four lines going,” said winger Thomas DiPauli. “Our defensemen are playing better. Still gotta find a little bit more consistency out of a few guys but what we’re doing well right now is if one guy isn’t going another is picking up where that should be going, doing his job. Everyone is playing well, all lines are scoring. I definitely think we’re playing with more confidence now than we did at the beginning of the year.”
They’ll need it as they skate into Conte Forum.
Boston College is roaring into the matchup with a 13-1-1 record and 12-0-1 mark since losing the second game of the season. It currently holds second place in the league with a 13 points (6-0-1) in seven games. Lowell is first with 15 points in 11 games.
Freshman forward Colin White paces an offense that is No. 2 in the country, scoring 4.4 goals per game. And that compliments a defense that’s surrendering 1.47 goals an outing.
In short, Notre Dame is preparing for a classically loaded Eagles team full of draft picks.
“It's another test like Harvard,” said head coach Jeff Jackson. “Similar offensive capabilities. Their third line may be even deeper offensively than Harvard’s was. We have to make sure that we do things right with the puck and we do things right as far as discipline goes. If we play the way that we’ve shown at times and we can do it for 60 minutes we can put ourselves in position to win.”
Harvard handed the Irish their last loss, a 4-1 setback to open the Shillelagh Tournament during Thanksgiving weekend.
Escaping Chestnut Hill with a better result will require solving Thatcher Demko.
The Boston College goaltender is third in the country with a 1.46 goals-against average and fifth with a .945 save percentage. He’s tied atop the leaderboard with six shutouts already this season.
DiPauli is familiar with Demko and what it will take to get pucks behind him.
“I’ve been on a few teams with him,” DiPauli said. “I’ve played against him quite a bit. I know him. He’s a great kid. I think the key against him is to get a lot of shots and bodies to the net and that kinda frustrates him. Once you get two or three goals, keep shooting, the goals start adding up.”
Getting traffic in front of the crease has been an Irish priority this season.
Sam Herr screened the goaltender last weekend into missing a puck that went in for a goal. Connor Hurley redirected another into the net for his second goal of the season. Transferring some of that to the power play is the next step.
Putting all that together could net another win before the holiday break begins. The Irish don’t play again until travelling to the University of Denver on New Year’s Day.
“We get into those modes where we play a little too perimeter-ish and that’s when we don’t score,” Jackson said. “Same thing applies to our power play. It’s the nature of some of our guys. They like to do things from the outside, make plays. That’s all well and good but you’ve gotta get pucks and bodies to the net. It’s not just a matter of men to the net. You’ve gotta get pucks through and get them to the net.”
York zeroes in on major milestone
Boston College head coach Jerry York is three wins away from 1,000 in his college hockey coaching career.
He started at Clarkson in the 1972-73 season. Jackson first crossed paths with York, then the head coach at Bowling Green, during his tenure at Lake Superior State. York took over at Boston College in 1999 and has built it into a powerhouse.
“Jerry’s always been considered one of the best coaches in the country,” Jackson said. “His strength is his people skills, I think. Obviously, he knows the game. But I think he has great people skills. He gets the best out of his players and he also gets the best players too. That takes people skills. Recruiting has certainly gone in their favor since he’s been at Boston College. He does a great job bringing in elite level talent. They usually are deep offensively. Frankly, when they lose a good player they replace him rather easily. It’s made them a consistent threat in the conference and nationally.”
Jackson is 8-6-0 against York during his time at Notre Dame. Boston College holds a 20-17-2 edge in the all-time series.
Bjork makes initial WJC roster
Earlier this week USA Hockey announced its preliminary 29-man roster for the upcoming World Junior Championship.
Irish winger Anders Bjork made the list and will begin in training camp Dec. 14 in Boston. Team USA must get down to 23 players by Dec. 24 as the tournament begins two days later in Helsinki, Finland.
“I think that his performance in the summer helped him,” Jackson said. “He’s had a decent first half. But they’re looking at him as being more of a depth player, a third or fourth line guy that maybe has potential if somebody was to get hurt to step up and play on one of the top two lines. I think that they look at him as being more of a utility guy that can kill penalties. I don’t think he’ll be a power play guy just based on the guys they have. You’ve still gotta make that team. I think they’ll be there Thursday night.”