Jan. 9, 2014
Notre Dame, Ind. – Hockey returns to Compton Family Ice Arena this weekend after a 35-day hiatus and the Irish hockey fans will get to spend the next three weekends with Notre Dame hockey as the Irish icers will play their next six games in the friendly confines. This weekend, the Alabama Huntsville Chargers invade the Compton for a pair of games on Jan. 10 and 11. Friday’s game starts at 7:35 p.m. and can be seen on the NBC Sports Network. Saturday’s tilt has a 7:05 p.m. face off and will be streamed on NBCSports.com.
A week from now, former CCHA partner, Lake Superior State, will visit Notre Dame on Jan. 17 and 18. The Lakers will play at 7:35 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 17 and 7:05 p.m. on Saturday night. The two teams met 64 times in their 23 seasons in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
The six-game home stand comes to an end on Jan. 24-25 with a crucial Hockey East match up as the Northeastern Huskies invade South Bend for a pair of league contests with both games to be televised by the NBC Sports Network. Both Northeastern and Alabama Huntsville have already been to Notre Dame this year as they participated in the Shillelagh Tournament on Nov. 29-30. The Irish downed UAH, 5-2, in the opening day of the tourney and then dropped a 3-2 decision to the Huntington Hounds in the title game the following night.
“This home stand is very important for the team,” says Irish captain Jeff Costello.
“The second half is already going. There aren’t any games that we can take for granted. We are close to getting the results that we are looking for. We are playing and practicing well and hopefully that will carry over to these upcoming games.”
IRISH VERSUS CHARGERS
Alabama Huntsville opened the second half of its season last weekend at home, dropping a pair of home games to Bowling Green by 7-0 and 4-1 scores. The Chargers are 1-21-0 on the season and 1-13-0 in their first season in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA). Notre Dame and Alabama Huntsville have met 21 times in the all-time series with the Irish holding an 11-9-1 advantage in those games. In games played at Notre Dame, the Irish are 8-3-1, including a 5-2 win in the Shillelagh Tournament on Nov. 29. Notre Dame has won two straight in the series and six of the last seven meetings dating back to the 1990-91 campaign. While the Chargers have lost six straight games since winning on Dec. 7, a 4-3 overtime win at Bowling Green, Irish head coach Jeff Jackson is quick to emphasize that the Irish need to be worrying more about their game than what their opponent is doing.
“This weekend is not about our opponent,” says Jackson.
“No matter who we play at this point, it has to be about us and how we are playing. If we let anything else impact that, then we are going to get ourselves in trouble. We need to play as well as we did against BC last Saturday night and take away the mistakes, the odd man rushes, the blocked shots, the dumb things that happened. We need to start getting some confidence in our game. One positive from the Boston College game is that we are playing with our entire lineup for the first time in a long time. I kind of like where we are right now with our line combinations. We just have to put it all together.”
Frozen Fenway will long be remembered for the Notre Dame hockey team having a chance to play hockey at the home of the Boston Red Sox, in front of the Green Monster and all the history that goes along with that ball park. For the Irish players and staff, it also will be remembered for some of the worst travel issues that the team has ever had to deal with.
On Jan. 2, the team’s flight to Boston was cancelled due to the Winter Storm Hercules. Notre Dame, with a big assist from the Chicago Blackhawks, was able to get the Blackhawks’ charter to fly to Boston on Jan. 3 while the `Hawks were busy playing the New York Islanders on Long Island and at New Jersey on Jan. 2-3.
After getting to Boston and getting through the snow, cold and ice of Frozen Fenway, the Irish saw their return trip to South Bend cancelled after the game on Jan. 4, due to a major storm brewing in the Midwest. The Irish stayed in Boston on Sunday, Jan. 5 while other options were weighed. At the same time, South Bend was getting 20 inches of snow and some of the coldest temperatures on record.
Finally at 6:00 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 6, the team and staff hopped on a charter plane that had been in Baltimore and got back to South Bend around 8:15 p.m. on Monday evening. There, they were greeted by over 20 inches of snow in some places and temperatures of -13 with wind chills reaching -45. The city had been shutdown with a travel ban until 6:00 p.m. on Monday. The most valuable traveler for the Irish proved to be equipment specialist Dave Gilbert who handles the team travel as well as his equipment duties. He seemed to have a cell phone glued to his ear for most of the trip, looking for flights, organizing meals or just finding activities – like trips to the mall – for the party of 45 for two extra days in Boston.
Sophomore left wing Thomas DiPauli may have had the best line when reflecting on the trip and all the changes in plans due to the weather following practice on Wednesday.
“It really makes you appreciate when everything does work, which happens most of the time,” said DiPauli.
A LOOK BACK AT FROZEN FENWAY
While the Irish didn’t get the results they were hoping for in their visit to Fenway Park on Jan. 4 – a 4-3 loss to Boston College – the event is something they won’t forget for a long time, even with all the travel problems, the cold and tough ice conditions.
For Thomas DiPauli, who joined the team after the United States team was eliminated at the World Junior Championships, his time in Boston was a blur.
“I thought the outdoor game was just an unbelievable atmosphere. Getting a chance to tour Fenway Park was neat,” says the sophomore left wing.
“It was kind of a blur for me, everything happened really fast. One minute we were playing Russia in Sweden, then we are on a plane to Boston the next day. It was weird playing against three of my teammates with the U.S. team who were playing for Boston College.”
Jeff Costello’s trip to Fenway started last August when he threw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game when the Frozen Fenway series was announced. He thought that despite the weather conditions, he and his teammates made the most of the experience.
“Getting the chance to play at Fenway Park was really cool with all the history of that ball park,” says Costello.
“I think its still exciting to play outdoors especially against a good team like Boston College. I thought everyone was just excited to be there and thankful to be in that situation. When your locker room is the Red Sox indoor batting practice area, that’s not something that you are going to do every day. In think that instead of focusing on the negative, we enjoyed the moment and embraced it.”
“I think the kids really enjoyed the event. I enjoyed it,” says Irish head coach Jeff Jackson.
“It’s a unique situation. They had a good crowd. I can’t imagine what the organizers had to do to get the ice ready and the building cleared considering the storm that went through there just 24 hours earlier.”
For Thomas DiPauli and freshman center Vince Hinostroza, their Christmas break was spent in Minnesota and Malmo, Sweden with the U.S. Junior National Team as they prepared to participate in the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championships.
The duo helped the United States to a 3-1 record in group A, round-robin play before falling in the quarterfinals to Russia by a 5-3 score. That ended the tournament for DiPauli and Hinostroza, allowing them to return to the U.S. in time to play for Notre Dame against Boston College on Jan. 4.
On the world stage, they held their own, making strong contributions to the U.S. cause. Hinostroza finished tied for the team lead with three goals and was tied for second with five points (3g, 2a). He fired five shots on goal in his five games and was +2 for the tournament. His big game came in an 8-0 win over Germany when he had two goals and two assists for a four-point night. DiPauli also played in all five games and had two assists with a pair of shots on goal. He tied for second on the team with a +4 for the tournament. The Irish duo are the 17th and 18th Notre Dame players to be selected to play in the World Junior Championships since the 1976-77 season when Jack Brownschildle `77 was the first to get the call.
“The whole thing was a great experience,” said DiPauli.
“The whole journey was great, from practice in Minnesota to traveling to Sweden. We had a great group of guys. Obviously, things didn’t turn out the way we had hoped, but it was a great experience. I learned some things that I hope I can bring back to work into my game. One thing I learned on the big ice was how important it is to use your speed. That’s one thing I want to focus on in my game now that I am back.”
DiPauli also got a special gift from the experience. In the exhibition game against Minnesota State on Dec. 17, he caught a stick in the face that knocked out two front teeth. He will get to spend some time a dentist chair in the very near future to remove temporary crowns for the real thing.
HOCKEY EAST HAPPENINGS
While the Irish were busy trying to get to and from Frozen Fenway plenty of other items were happening around Hockey East last week … Providence College and Merrimack also hooked up at Fenway Park on Jan. 4 with the two teams battling to a 1-1 tie … PC’s Steven Shamanski had the game-tying goal in the third period … the University of Vermont was fit to be tied on the weekend as the Catamounts first tied Dartmouth, 1-1 and then followed up with a 3-3 tie against No. 11 Yale. The tying goal came at 19:07 of the third period … Vermont freshman Mario Puskarich was named the Hockey East/Pro Ambitions rookie of the week after assisting on all three Vermont goals in the game … senior Chris McCarthy had two third-period goals in that game, including the game-tying marker … New Hampshire had a big weekend, sweeping Nebraska-Omaha at home with 6-3 and 5-2 wins … junior forward Matt Willows led the way with four goals and one assist against the Mavericks on the way to Warrior Hockey player of the week honors … he collected a hat trick with an assist for four points in the 5-2 win on Saturday night … UMass-Lowell continued its strong play with a 1-1 tie and a 4-3 win over ninth-ranked Clarkson at home … senior goaltender Doug Carr stopped 56-of-60 shots in the four-point weekend for the River Hawks on the way to Hockey East defensive player of the week honors … this weekend’s games feature a conference showdown between the first-and-second place teams as #6 Providence (second) and #4 Boston College (first) will meet on Friday night at Boston College … the Eagles are on a five-game winning streak while the Friars are 0-2-1 in their last three games … the two teams were 1-1-1 against each other last season … the second round of games at Fenway Park will also be affected by weather this weekend – this time its rain. The games between Northeastern and UMass-Lowell and Boston University and Maine have been moved up to start at noon and 3:00 p.m. respectively to beat the rain that is expected Saturday evening in Boston … in games played on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, Northeastern defeated Providence, 2-1, with Vermont winning at St. Lawrence, 4-2, on Tuesday … the lone game on Wednesday had Dartmouth winning 4-2 at Boston University … and finally, a stick salute to former Hockey East Public Relations Director Pete Souris, a 2001 New Hampshire graduate, who is leaving the league office to take over full-time at UMass-Lowell. Souris was in his seventh season as the information guru at Hockey East.