Monday, February 14, 2011

Irish Hockey Picking Up Steam As Regular Season Nears Its End

After splitting its previous three series against Alaska, Ohio State, and Miami (OH) the Fighting Irish earned a much needed weekend sweep for the first time since early January this past weekend.

Playing against CCHA bottom-feeder Bowling Green certainly helped matters, but the Falcons nearly fought their way to a tie on Friday night. Notre Dame prevailed on a late goal by standout freshman left wing Anders Lee. With 3:14 left in the game Lee lit the lamp inside a packed house at the Joyce Center to give the Irish a 2-1 lead and eventual final score. Lee added two more assists on Saturday as the Irish icers cruised to a 5-1 victory to complete the series sweep over the Falcons.

Thanks in part to his four points over the series Lee earned CCHA Rookie of the week honors for the third time this season. On the year his 19 goals and 18 assists put him at second in the nation and CCHA in points by a rookie. Additionally, with the game-winner on Friday night he now has five game-winning goals on the year, good for first place in the CCHA.

Speaking of first place in the CCHA, Notre Dame is now all alone atop its conference as a result of its weekend sweep and some help by Western Michigan who beat Miami (OH) in overtime Friday night to help give the Irish an edge over the Red Hawks.

For head coach Jeff Jackson, first place is somewhat insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

For me, it's more about how well you are playing going into the playoffs. It doesn't matter if you finish first or fifth, you're going to play a tough opponent in the second round.

Four regular season games remain for the Irish as they head to Big Rapids, MI this weekend to take on Ferris State before finishing up with a home and home series against Western Michigan.

A first round bye is already guaranteed in the CCHA playoffs but the Irish could go a long way toward earning a top seed with a pair of weekend sweeps in the coming weeks.

But, as Jackson alluded to it does not matter what place the Irish finish in during the regular season. There are more direct goals set for this team as Jackson and the Irish have their sights set on a CCHA championship and, more importantly, an elusive NCAA championship.

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