Weeks have come and gone since the Notre Dame hockey team sustained momentum.
Since closing out the first half with six straight wins the Irish have stumbled around more often than not, winning outright just twice over the last month. One stretch included five straight losses. Stringing together consecutive wins has yet to happen in the second half.
Last weekend Ohio State took a 6-3 win Friday before Notre Dame grabbed two league points with a shootout victory in the series finale.
"We've got to chip away at finding our game again," said captain Anders Lee. "Chip away at getting back to where we really were. It's tough sometimes because we have five days in between. We have a whole week of class, a whole week of other stuff going on. You can lose that momentum easily in a week."
Tying Ohio State through regulation and overtime last week, while not the ideal result, might offer some measure of positive karma. Head coach Jeff Jackson dubbed it his club's best performance of the second half no matter the final score.
Sustaining that effort becomes more paramount as the season stretches on, especially with rival Michigan coming to town this weekend for a Central Collegiate Hockey Association series.
Notre Dame (16-11-1, 12-7-1-1 CCHA), sitting at No. 12 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll this week, holds a two-point lead over Ferris State for third in the league while Michigan (10-16-2, 7-13-2-2 CCHA) is tied for eighth.
Taking two games from Michigan would help the Irish control their own fate. It would also mean they beat the Wolverines in all four matchups this season after earning a sweep in Ann Arbor earlier this year.
Adding all those components together should make for what winger Jeff Costello called a "very spirited contest."
"It's very difficult to beat a team two nights in a row, especially in our league," Costello said. "When you do that and you unfortunately have to play them later down the road they're definitely gonna be coming after us early. They'll probably have that extra edge."
Rivalry games with a little more juice make for great theater and also more opportunity for mistakes, especially for penalty prone teams.
Notre Dame ranks in the middle nationally in terms of penalty minutes per game but has had more issues with unwanted trips to the box in the second half. Nick Larson found himself on the bench two weeks ago against Ferris State after multiple penalties taken.
Last Friday Ohio State scored three power-play goals after a major on Mike Voran en route to its 6-3 victory.
"I've been benching guys," Jackson said. "Not just the guys that have been missing games but I've been benching guys for taking penalties. They've got to figure it out. I've done it earlier in the year too at times. Guys get a one bad penalty grace period. If they take another bad penalty it's gonna cost them."
When Costello refers to a "spirited contest" it's just the type of game where more penalties could happen: Players working hard for body position, an emphasis on finishing checks and perhaps even a little extra talking.
Costello expects all that and perhaps more while straddling the line between a good rivalry and several trips to the penalty box.
"That's what I define as spirited," he laughed. "Some others might not agree. But yeah, basically."
Beers in limbo
Defenseman Jared Beers remains suspended indefinitely until the matter of his off-campus arrest last weekend are sorted out.
Earlier this week the South Bend Tribune reported Beers, a native of nearby Mishawaka, faced three misdemeanor charges in connection with an alleged assault at a bar near campus. Officers arrested Beers early Monday after a female employee at Brothers Bar and Grill accused him of assaulting her late Sunday night.
Jackson plans to let the law and the Office of Residence Life handle the matter before deciding what to do with Beers, 22.
"I just need to see how things pan out," Jackson said. "A lot has changed even since the incident. There was talk of felonies and everything else and it's now one misdemeanor. That's why I don't react until I know exactly what the situation is. He'll have a hearing with ResLife. Once that's done and the issue with the misdemeanor is taken care of then I'll deal with it. For the time being he's just suspended indefinitely."
Beers was also arrested in the summer of 2010 at a student party. Forty-four people total were arrested as part of a police raid, according to the Tribune.