Irish look to regroup in weekend series against Red Hawks
By MATT ORENCHUK
The Notre Dame hockey team came close to beating Michigan State last Friday night.
But close doesn't mean win.
Instead, the Irish dropped that game to the Spartans, and enter this weekend's series against the Miami (Ohio) Red Hawks with a 2-5-1 record.
That doesn't mean head coach Dave Poulin is ready to hit the panic button yet. Instead, Poulin has stressed fundamentals to his team, working on the spots that have troubled the Irish early in the season.
One area that has tormented Notre Dame is goal scoring.
Before the season started, the Irish were pegged to have a great offense. They were deep at center, and all of the experience seemed to be on the offensive side. Yet only twice in eight games have the Irish produced more than three goals.
With an inexperienced defense, the Irish know the goal production needs to increase.
"This week we have worked on drills that stress going to the net," freshman center Aaron Gill said. "Instead of shooting it from the outside, we are looking at getting second and third chances in front of the net and putting away the rebound."
Notre Dame has also struggled on special teams.
Against Michigan State last weekend, the Irish gave up five power-play goals, while only getting one on the offensive end. That trend needs to change if the Irish are going to make a serious run at the NCAA tournament.
"Every game, we give the different fundamental areas a grade of plus or minus," Poulin said. "Our special teams has gotten a minus in every game this year, and that is something we are working hard to change."
Another area the Irish are grappling with is goaltending.
Sophomore Tony Zasowski started the season but was pulled in favor of Jeremiah Kimento after the first two games. Kimento played well, but gave up four goals against Michigan State last Thursday. That led Poulin to give Zasowski his first start in three weeks on Friday night against the Spartans. Zasowski played well, giving up just three goals on 31 shots.
Although Poulin didn't speculate on the long-term goalie situation, he did clear up speculation on who would start tonight against the Red Hawks.
"I think Tony played well enough against Michigan State that he deserves the right to start against Miami this week," Poulin said.
The Miami Red Hawks enter the game in the same position as Notre Dame. They have had a tough early season schedule, and dropped their first two CCHA games to Michigan, which may be the best team in the CCHA.
That doesn't mean the Red Hawks don't have talent.
The Red Hawks' strength is in their goal scoring. Miami is led by junior Jason Deskins and senior Gregor Krajnc, and have freshmen Greg Hogeboom and Mike Kompon waiting in the wings. The Notre Dame defensive unit will have to step up to contain the Red Hawks' potent scoring attack.
As if that wasn't enough to keep Notre Dame occupied, they also have to worry about playing on the road against an enthusiastic student body. Miami (Ohio) plays in the intimate Groggin Center, which seats 2,200 and can get loud.
"Miami has a tough building to play in," Poulin said. "They have a great student section."
The Irish need a good road win to help build their confidence and get the season back on track. Going down to Miami this weekend might do the trick, but the Irish will need to improve in some fundamental and avoid worrying about things beyond their control.
The game strategy, however is simple.
"We just need to line up and play," said Gill.
All Sports Stories for Friday, November 3, 2000