When camp opened up the Notre Dame hockey team set forth with a goal: Turn the Compton Family Ice Arena into an elite home-ice advantage.
Turns out that has been difficult to accomplish in part because of how the schedule has shaken out. The Irish have played four home series this season and sport a 5-3-0 record in those contests. They split with Minnesota-Duluth, Western Michigan and North Dakota - all ranked opponents.
Each of those series started with a loss in the first game. Last weekend Notre Dame (11-4-0, 7-1-0-0 CCHA) won the opener en route to sweeping Lake Superior State.
“The way we started the games (last) weekend is the key,” head coach Jeff Jackson said. “To get on top of people early in games, to score the first goal, makes a huge difference in our building. We have to come out flying in our building. We have to put the pressure on the opponent. We’ve had good first periods but we haven’t always scored or got that first goal.”
Both times against Lake Superior State the Irish scored first and they remain undefeated this season when doing so. Getting off to such a start would be welcome this weekend with another home series against a Central Collegiate Hockey Association opponent.
Michigan State (4-8-2, 3-6-1-0 CCHA) comes to town having lost three straight while scoring just one goal in that stretch.
Notre Dame, on the other hand, is coming off a six-goal outburst in the Lake Superior State series finale. It is the highest one-game goal total for the Irish this season and only the sixth time they have scored four or more goals.
“I don’t know if it’s the best hockey we’ve played all year,” center T.J. Tynan said. “We’ll see how that goes this weekend, especially coming off a big win on Saturday. I think if we start well and focus on outworking the other team that we’re playing -- whether it’s Michigan State or Bowling Green coming up in the last part of the first half -- I think if we just focus on working harder than them we’ll be fine.”
Bowling Green is the lone opponent left before the holiday break after the Michigan State series. Notre Dame will travel there Dec. 15.
Winger Austin Wuthrich missed both games against Lake Superior State with an upper body injury but is expected back in the lineup for Michigan State, Jackson said.
Backup goaltender Mike Johnson should also be available this weekend if necessary. Johnson started the second game against Lake Superior State and exited with an ankle injury after taking a hit from a Lakers player. Regular starter Steven Summerhays finished out the game.
Lucia selected for U.S. junior camp
Freshman winger Mario Lucia has been named to USA Hockey’s 27-man preliminary roster for the 2013 U.S. Junior National Team. Lucia will attend training camp from Dec. 16-18 in Tarrytown, N.Y.
After that initial camp the roster will be trimmed to 23 and the group will depart for Helsinki, Finland for another camp from Dec. 19-23 in advance of the IIHF World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia. The event will run from Dec. 26-Jan. 5.
Lucia scored an invite despite playing just six games so far this season after a leg injury.
“I think he’s gonna get better as time goes on,” Jackson said. “He’s really good with the puck and around the puck. He seems to be in the right place all the time. He’s one of those guys that the puck gravitates towards him. He’s probably going to be a very productive college player offensively.”
Lucia has scored four goals and recorded one assist in those six games. He could be the 16th Notre Dame player to participate in the World Junior Championships. Last season current team members Stephen Johns and T.J. Tynan were on the U.S. squad.