It's time for the Notre Dame hockey team to get a move on.
It began the season ranked No. 5 nationally following 31-6-3 campaign that ended in the disappointment of an upset loss to Bemidji State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Now as they return from holiday break by hosting their own tournament in Hoffman Estates, Ill., beginning with a game against Colgate, the Irish have slipped from the national polls after going 8-8-4 before the break.
The veterans know it's time to start piling up some wins if they want to make it back to the postseason but aren't yet looking too far into the crystal ball.
"Right now it's just more about our game and how we're playing more than anything," center Kevin Deeth said. "But I think it's always in the back of people's minds. Right now we're just trying to worry about winning Saturday and then Sunday instead of down the road."
What lay ahead of Notre Dame in the immediate future is the Shillelagh Tournament, which it hosts at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, and a matchup against Colgate (7-6-4) at 7:05 p.m. Saturday.
Western College Hockey Association powerhouse and No. 6-ranked North Dakota (9-6-3) faces Niagara (3-10-2) at 3:05 p.m. Saturday in the tournament opener. Regardless of matchup Notre Dame plays again at 7:05 p.m. Sunday.
In order for Notre Dame to restart its season on a winning note -- and likely secure a chance to pick up a big win against North Dakota -- it must figure things out in the offensive zone.
While the defense ranks third in the country, allowing 1.95 goals per game, the Irish offense is 53rd out of 58 teams in Division I, scoring just 2.05 goals per game.
Considering the speed and skill up front, Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson has been surprised by his team's lack of offensive productivity all year long and hopes the goals will start coming with more frequency not only this weekend but when his team jumps back into Central Collegiate Hockey Association play.
"I'm making some adjustments with our lines," Jackson said. "We're actually moving some people into different positions and just trying to find guys that could potentially generate more offense for us as a group, as a line.
"The other part of it is we need to play a little bit better system that's gonna generate transition for us. Our system has worked for us the last three years. It's been great for us. But it hasn't been as effective for us this year. Just by changing with the injuries to the defensemen, we saw some things that might make us better."
The most notable changes Jackson said he's going to make is moving right wing Billy Maday to center with Ben Ryan shifting to the wing.
Injury bug lingers
Jackson had to operate very short-handed in the last series before the break against Michigan. Several regular defensemen missed time with a variety of injuries.
This weekend Jackson expects Ian Cole (concussion) and Sean Lorenz (leg), both of whom practiced during the week, to be healthy. Eric Ringel, also suffering from post-concussion issues, is not expected to play. Nor is freshman Sam Calabrese, who is nursing an ankle injury.
Lavin joins the roster
With a variety of injuries to defensemen, Joe Lavin couldn't have found a better time to enroll at Notre Dame.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound defenseman transferred to Notre Dame for the second semester and began practicing Dec. 28. He will see his first game action this weekend. Lavin spent a year and a half at Providence before joining the Omaha Lancers in the United States Hockey League to seek a transfer.
Lavin already knew several Irish players, including Cole and fellow defenseman Teddy Ruth, as a result of his time at the U.S. National Team Development Program.
"I had played with a bunch of the guys before at the USA program in Ann Arbor," Lavin said of why he chose Notre Dame. "Coach Jackson and his track record and how he turned the team around so fast, and just the discipline and history of the place and what it means to be a member of the Fighting Irish family."
Lavin, a fifth-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2007 NHL Draft, will wear No. 33.
Palmieri, Kristo at World Juniors
Two of the more dynamic young forwards in college hockey will be missing from this weekend's tournament.
Notre Dame's Kyle Palmieri and North Dakota's Danny Kristo are both members of the U.S. National Junior team, which is currently 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship in Saskatoon, Sask.
Palmieri has struggled at times during his freshman season but Kristo has made a big impact on the Fighting Sioux. The Montreal Canadiens draft pick is tied for the team lead with 16 points (6g, 10a) and has scored five power-play goals.