Matt Cashore / IrishIllustrated.com

BC game starts Irish gauntlet

Playing Boston College tonight brings a challenge and opportunity for the Notre Dame hockey team, which needs quality wins down the stretch to boost its NCAA tournament resume. Fortunately, there are more quality opponents on the way.

Who: No. 15 Notre Dame (14-8-3) at No. 11 Boston College (16-9-2)
When: 7 p.m tonight
Where: Conte Forum; Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Radio: 94.3 FM (WZOC)
TV: None
Twitter: @ND_hockey

Falling into a two-goal deficit probably isn’t how the Notre Dame hockey team wants to go about its business tonight.

Last time the Irish played No. 11 Boston College it worked out fine. After the Eagles took a 2-0 lead in the first period with a pair of power-play goals, Anders Bjork scored twice and Andrew Oglevie added another for a 3-2 comeback victory.

But that was at the Compton Family Ice Arena. Tonight No. 15 Notre Dame faces a deeper Boston College team on its own turf.

“We obviously had a tough start but they’ve been picking everyone apart in the first period of games,” head coach Jeff Jackson said. “You just have to be prepared to weather the storm early on because they’re a quick starting team. They had, I think, two goals in the first couple minutes the other night against UConn.

“We have to get off to a better start than we did last time. Part of that would be staying out of the penalty box because both those goals were power-play goals.”

Boston College (16-9-2, 11-3-1 Hockey East) is sure to make life difficult.

Forwards Austin Cangelosi and Ryan Fitzgerald have returned to the lineup, bolstering their depth up front. Notre Dame held the Eagles to just 17 total shots back in December. That’s unlikely to happen again, especially with a couple key players back in the fold.

“We went down early but after that I think we really played well with them five-on-five,” goalie Cal Petersen said. “Limited their chances. I think definitely going into the weekend special teams is going to be the biggest part with them having a really good power play. But as long as we keep their chances to a minimum, they’re not as dangerous a team. But I’m sure they’re looking at that and planning to throw a couple more than 17 shots on net this time.”

Heading to Chestnut Hill for one game represents for Notre Dame (14-8-3, 7-4-2 Hockey East) a challenging stretch that could impact its postseason chances.

Right now the Irish sit at No. 19 in the PairWise rankings, which essentially determines the NCAA tournament field. Only 16 teams make it in college hockey. Needless to say, there’s work to be done in hopes of securing a spot in the field without winning the Hockey East tournament.

Fortunately, opportunity is one the way. Boston College is No. 14 in the PairWise. Vermont, next week’s opponent, is No. 7. Down the road on the schedule, Boston University is at No. 4.

“You can’t focus on it,” Jackson said. “But the fact is we’re playing good teams here the rest of the way. We don’t play a weak opponent the rest of the way. If we can win the next game every time we say it, it’s gonna have a positive impact on where we finish both conference-wise and nationally. We need to focus on the next game. Every next game is going to be important.”

Conference standing is also at stake.

Notre Dame went into the weekend fourth in the Hockey East standings and in line for a bye in the league tournament. Boston College, Boston University and Vermont represent the top three, in that order.

Every point will be important over the next six weeks if the Irish want to challenge for a Hockey East title in their last run through the league. That starts tonight.

“They’re going to have more value to them,” Jackson said, “because there’s two points on the line for the conference and nationally, if you’re playing a team that’s ranked ahead of you, it helps you. There’s not easy way out of it. We have to take care of business over the next month and a half here.”


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