Feb. 5, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. –
As the middle of the Hockey East standings remain tight, Notre Dame will look to move closer to the top of the league’s pack in perhaps the league’s most hostile setting this weekend as the Irish venture to Orono, Maine for a pair of games at Alfond Arena against the Maine Black Bears.
Friday’s game will be broadcast around New England on NESN while Saturday’s contest will be available nationally via FOX College Sports Atlantic and online at WatchND. Both begin at 7 p.m.
Maine (10-16-2, 5-8-1 Hockey East) may be in 10th place in the Hockey East standings, but the 1993 and 1999 national champions have long thrived on its home ice. Of the Black Bear’s 10 wins this year, seven have come at Alfond Arena where Notre Dame (11-14-3, 6-5-3 HE) will be playing for the first time.
“They’re going through some of the same kind of things we are with new goaltenders and younger guys at certain positions,” Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson said. “They’ve had that same kind of season as us with the inconsistency.
“They’re always a much different team at home and we have to be conscious of that. Alfond is a very tough building to play in. It’s a great old barn. I was there when I was with Lake Superior State and it’s a tough building. The fans are right on top of you and the game is fast there. You have to be prepared for the elements and you have to be prepared for their team speed.”
The Irish, tied for fifth in the conference have headed to “Down East” Maine coming off of a 5-3 win over New Hampshire on Saturday night at the Compton Family Ice Arena. Coupled with the return of Robbie Russo this weekend, and the Irish carry momentum into this weekend’s games.
One place the Irish have been potent of late is on its power play. Notre Dame has at least one power play goal in each of its last seven contests, scoring nine times with a man advantage since Jan. 10. Notre Dame’s nine power play goals over this stretch are tied for third nationally, exceeded only by Boston University (13) and Michigan Tech (12).
Vince Hinostroza had helped fuel this offensive fire, carrying a five-game point-scoring streak into the Maine series, one which includes three multiple-point games. Russo continues to lead all defensemen nationally with his 11 goals while his regular defensive partner, Jordan Gross, leads all freshman blueliners nationally with 20 points. Mario Lucia’s 17 goals on the year leaves him just one shy of Boston University Terrier Danny O’Regan’s Hockey East-leading pace of 18.
The Black Bears have been playing their best hockey of 2014-15 lately. Maine is 6-3-1 in its last 10 games and has held eight of those 10 opponents to two goals or less.