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November 9, 2012

Battleground B.C.

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Mike Voran won’t forget leaping onto the ice in celebration.

Last season Notre Dame dedicated the brand new Compton Family Ice Arena by welcoming in rival Boston College for a matchup of top five teams. Regulation ended with the score tied 2-2 and it appeared things would finish that way.

Then Irish winger Bryan Rust streaked down the ice, put a shot on goal and it somehow slipped through Boston College goaltender Parker Milner with 1.1 second left in overtime.

Winning the Friday night hockey matchup helped launch a weekend that included a 16-14 football victory over Boston College the next day. It has become a somewhat regular tradition to match both sports up on the same weekend in the same city.

“Going crazy, the fans were going wild,” Voran said. “It’s always a special weekend when it’s a football weekend and there’s a hockey game, especially against BC because they have their fans and we have our fans there. I know some of the ND fans will be coming to our game in BC. That’s going to be a special experience as well.”

Voran expects that traveling party to hit Kelley Rink in Chestnut Hill, Mass., at 7 p.m. tonight as No. 8 Notre Dame (6-2-0) drops the puck against top-ranked Boston College (6-1-0). Football kicks off against the Eagles at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Since the 2003-04 season these two teams have met eight times with Notre Dame holding a 6-2-0 advantage. Four times in that span Boston College has come into the game with a No. 1 ranking.

And all four times the Irish have come out victorious, most recently in 2010.

“I don’t think there’s a formula,” center T.J. Tynan said. “Just out-playing them. You have to out-work them because they’re the No. 1 team in the country. Just doing the little things right, getting all the details down and playing a team game. That’s how you’re gonna win.”

Repeated victories by the underdogs have cranked up the Catholic school rivalry, but a loss had perhaps the most lasting impact on making the series more viable on the ice.

Notre Dame made an unexpected run to the national championship game during the 2007-08 season, which ended with a 4-1 loss to Boston College.

That night the Irish were a plucky underdog. Since then they lead the series 3-1.

“Until last year I don’t know how serious they took us,” head coach Jeff Jackson said. “I think they take us serious now. They certainly did last year when they played here. I think my first few years here, though, it was just Notre Dame. Now it’s Notre Dame, not just Notre Dame anymore.”

Heading home with another victory would buoy the Irish as they are in the middle of a particularly brutal stretch of the schedule that started with the series against Western Michigan last weekend. Next week brings a Central Collegiate Hockey Association series against Michigan and the week after that a non-conference matchup with North Dakota.

Jackson will put an emphasis on execution tonight, although earlier in the week he wanted to channel some good vibes when asked about a common ingredient in beating a top-ranked Boston College team.

“Don’t jinx us,” Jackson laughed.

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