Matt Cashore / IrishIllustrated.com

Sorting through puck problems

Old issues in puck management popped back up last week for Notre Dame hockey. Sorting them out in a hurry has been a point of emphasis with No. 13 Vermont coming to town for a critical Hockey East series.

Who: Notre Dame (14-9-3) vs. No. 13 Vermont (16-8-2)
When: 7:35 p.m. tonight; 6:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Compton Family Ice Arena; South Bend, Ind.
Radio: 94.3 FM (WZOC)
TV: NBCSN (both nights)
Twitter: @ND_hockey

Notre Dame’s streak of steady puck management unraveled last Saturday when Boston College turned Irish turnovers into odd-man rushes during a 6-4 win. Goalie Cal Petersen held the Eagles at bay with 38 saves, but Boston College’s combination of speed and skill ultimately undid Notre Dame when fueled by those giveaways.

“That’s not what we’re looking for,” said defenseman Luke Ripley. “We gave up way too many odd-man rushes against BC. That’s something we can’t do. We’re not going to win doing that. It’s not something there is any magic formula to. We just have to play the right way, be more responsible with the puck and things will take care of themselves with the odd-man rushes.

Head coach Jeff Jackson hoped Notre Dame had put that kind of poor decision making with the puck behind it in late December and early January, when it reeled off five straight wins. That stretch included beating Boston College at home.

Instead, Jackson spent part of the practice week trying to re-fix an old issue.

And things won’t get any easier. No. 13 Vermont comes to South Bend this weekend for a two-game Hockey East series. Vermont (16-8-2, 8-5-1 Hockey East) has won six of its last eight games, including a stretch of five consecutive victories in January.

“We’re playing a team that is in the same category (as Boston College),” Jackson said. “Maybe a different style but very similar team as far as offensively. Vermont is as good as there is in our conference right now. We’re gonna have to be really smart with the puck. We had been doing a really good job of minimizing odd-man rush situations but against BC, I don’t know if we got caught up the moment with the energy in the building and the speed of the game. That’s where we got ourselves into trouble.”

Sorting out turnover issues is paramount given the Hockey East standings.

Boston College (25 points in 16 games) and Boston University (22 points in 16 games) have a little bit of separation. Vermont heads into the series in third place with 17 points in 14 games. Notre Dame (14-9-3, 7-5-2 Hockey East) is in fourth with 16 points in 14 games.

This issue for Vermont and Notre Dame is that four points separate third place from ninth.

Only the top four get first-round byes into the league tournament.

After this weekend Notre Dame closes with a road series at Maine, a home series with Providence and a road series at Boston University.

“They’re crucial games,” Jackson said. “At this point all the games are for the rest of the way. We certainly have to take advantage of being at home with our crowd and last change. I think that we have to really try to play a real smart game at this point because when we’re playing smart with the puck we’re a much better team. We’re fast. We play a good offensive game ourselves. But we have to do a great job with the puck.”

Hurley done for the season

Center Connor Hurley won’t play the rest of the season, Jackson confirmed Thursday.

Hurley last suited up Jan. 14 against Merrimack. He’s missed the last three games but remains on the team and is practicing. But the Irish won’t have him available until the beginning of next season at the earliest.

“He’s still on the team but he won’t play the rest of the season,” Jackson said.

Now a junior, Hurley was a second round pick of the Buffalo Sabres in the 2013 NHL Draft. He scored four goals and had 12 assists in 21 games this season.


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