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November 15, 2013

Depth continues to be tested

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Jeff Jackson wants the wins to start coming in bunches.

After running out to a 4-0 start the Notre Dame hockey team has now split each of its last three series, including last weekend against top-ranked Minnesota, with Hockey East foe Merrimack coming to the Compton Family Ice Arena this weekend.

Sweeping would have the two-fold effect of adding conference points and getting things back on a roll.

"We do need to try to string some wins again together," Jackson said. "We had four straight home games here, so that would've been the ideal time to start it. But we can't look that far ahead. We have to focus on Friday night right now. When we get past Friday we'll focus on Saturday. It's just the idea, consistency is a huge thing. It's been a little bit more challenging because our depth's been impacted the last few weeks.

"We have to really focus one game at a time even though I would like to see us get a little winning streak going at some point here."

Third-ranked Notre Dame (7-3-0, 1-1-0 Hockey East) is the only team with multiple losses in the top five of national polls. It will try to avoid adding to that total against Merrimack (3-5-0, 0-2-0 Hockey East) at home this weekend before venturing to No. 13 UMass-Lowell next week.

The Irish will be without leading scorer Vince Hinostroza, who left the second game against Minnesota with a leg injury. Jackson expects him out anywhere between two and four weeks.

Hinostroza, a freshman, has 12 points on three goals and nine assists.

"For a freshman he's a pretty big loss for us," Jackson said. "He's generated a lot of offensive opportunities for us with his speed and playmaking ability. We'll have to make sure other guys elevate from an offensive perspective because he's filled in a nice role for us in a second, third line center role and given us a little offensive depth."

Defenseman Eric Johnson (upper body) remains sidelined for the foreseeable future and winger Mike Voran (lower body) is not expected to play against Merrimack. Thomas DiPauli (upper body) appears on track to return.

So much juggling of the lineup puts others in the spotlight.

"I don't think it puts any more pressure on anyone," center T.J. Tynan said. "We've dealt with injuries in the past and we just have to deal with them now, obviously. Vince is having a great start to the year. It's bad losing him. And obviously, Voran battling through this injury ... I think we've gotta have more team offense. We can't rely on individuals to do that."

Resurgence of Rust

Winger Bryan Rust might be poised to pick up some of the scoring slack.

Rust registered just two points, both on assists, over the first six games of the season. He now has a four-game point streak with two goals and three assists over that stretch. Last weekend against Minnesota he had a goal in the first game and assist in the second.

"First few weeks of the season I was kind of a step slow," Rust said. "I wasn't really thinking the game. I don't know what you can attribute that to. Maybe it's just the start of the season, I'm not quite used to it. I've taken on a leadership role this year. Maybe that was kinda in my head. I've gotten used to it. I've had talks with coaches and got my feet back under me."

Last season Rust was one of Notre Dame's most effective playmakers. He had a career best in goals (15), assists (19), points (34), shots (121), power-play goals (5), game-winning goals (5) and plus-minus rating (plus-25).

Hinostroza honored again

Hockey East again selected Hinostroza as its rookie of the week after his performance against Minnesota before being lost to injury.

He recorded four assists and a plus-two rating against the Gophers. It's the second time this season Hinostroza has collected rookie of the week honors. The league also named him rookie of the month for October.

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