Notre Dame looks for clean sweep against Bowling Green
By JEFF BALTRUZAK
For Notre Dame, the CCHA playoffs might as well start now.
The Irish need a sweep this weekend against Bowling Green at the Joyce Center to keep their flickering postseason hopes alive — an ambitious goal for a struggling team that hasn't swept a team this season.
Bowling Green enters the weekend tenth in the CCHA standings, residing in the final playoff spot.
If the Irish could take two from the Falcons, the two squads would be tied with 14 points.
Lake Superior State also lurks with 12 points. Because the first tiebreaker for the playoffs is the season series, a sweep would put the Irish in the driver's seat over Bowling Green.
While Bowling Green (5-11-4 in the CCHA) comes to South Bend hot after sweeping Lake Superior State this past weekend, the Irish are just 3-14-4 in league action.
Ohio State did away with Notre Dame twice last weekend, and the Irish cannot seem to find their scoring groove.
"We played well against Ohio State, we just didn't win," said head coach Dave Poulin. "I feel really good [about Bowling Green], we've had a good week of practice."
Poulin tried to distribute Notre Dame's scoring throughout the lineup by splitting up the Irish's top offensive line of Dan Carlson, Ryan Dolder, and freshman Aaron Gill on Sunday versus Ohio State, and the three still scored all the Irish goals in the game.
"He has good reasons for doing it," said Dolder. "You hate to see a line broken up, but he was trying to get a spark going for the second line, and both lines played well on Sunday."
More interesting is Notre Dame's weekly who's-the-goalie intrigue.
Poulin has started sophomore Tony Zasowski the past four games.
Three of those games were losses and Zasowski allowed 21 goals in those four contests. Two other goalies, junior Jeremiah Kimento, and senior Kyle Kolquist, have played this season.
As of Thursday, Poulin had still not decided which goalie would get the nod against Bowling Green.
To hope to continue into the postseason, the Irish must improve both ways on the power play.
Notre Dame gave up five goals in 13 chances while skating a man down in two games against Ohio State. In their last 13 games, Notre Dame has killed just 74.1 percent of their opponents' power plays.
With a man advantage, the Irish are struggling, converting on 10.8 percent of their power plays this season.
On average, Notre Dame only gets one shot off per power play.
"It's been a focus point of practice," said Dolder. "On the power play, we're not shooting the puck enough. We make one too many passes, looking for the pretty play."
Loyal Domers shouldn't leave the Joyce Center if the third period finds Notre Dame trailing.
For the season, Notre Dame's offensive output has been highest in the third period, and the Irish defense has allowed the least shots and goals in the final twenty minutes.
Senior left winger Carlson has his eye on two career records this weekend.
He needs one short-handed goal to tie the all-time Notre Dame record, and will break the career games played record if he appears in both contests against Bowling Green.
The record was previously held by `82 team member John Schmidt.
Brett Lebda, a freshman defenseman, has supplied significant offense to the Irish cause.
His 19 points put him in third place in scoring defensemen, and he leads freshman defensemen in scoring.
Overall, the Irish need a strong team performance to claw their way into the CCHA playoffs. But it won't come easy.
"We know we need to win both games," said Dolder. "The guys know this could be it."
All Sports Stories for Friday, February 9, 2001