Nov 6, 2012, 9:03 AM EDT
Another home series, another split. Like Minnesota-Duluth two weeks ago, Western Michigan set the tone on Friday while the Irish impressed in game two. Despite outshooting the Broncos 37-25 in the first game of the series, a slow start to the second period proved too big an obstacle for the Irish, who fell behind 2-0 and ultimately lost 3-2.
However, Captain Anders Lee & Co. put on perhaps their most complete performance of the season to salvage the split Sunday night. The Irish limited Western’s chances by controlling the puck and playing dominant defense in the 4-0 victory. The Broncos mustered only 14 shots (to Notre Dame’s 35) and didn’t register a shot attempt until more than 11 minutes had passed in the game. All four Western shots in the third period came in the last six minutes.
But with such a thorough victory on Sunday, how were the Broncos able to control the tempo so well on Friday?
“I’m trying to put my finger on it,” head coach Jeff Jackson said.
Yet again, the Friday-night Irish look like a completely different team from Saturday’s version. Or in this case, Sunday’s version. This weekend, the hockey team took Saturday off while the football Irish won a thrilling triple-overtime contest over 16-point underdog Pittsburgh.
The football team has won each of its home games by an average margin of just under five points while its average score away from Notre Dame Stadium is 35-7.
“Just watching the football team play yesterday, there’s something about playing here at home that’s a factor,” Jackson said after Sunday’s game. “We want to apply pressure, not let pressure affect us. And that’s what we did. And I think that probably happens to our football team a little bit, too. At home you want to do really well, and you put pressure on yourself.”
Like the football team, Jackson’s squad has excelled on the road, winning four games without a loss. However, the Irish are 2-2 inside Compton Family Ice Arena, where they finished 5-7 in the regular season last year.
“Especially in the first game [against Minnesota-Duluth], we were just so excited to play in front of our fans – so excited to be in our building. We came out jittery and got away from our game,” Lee said. “I think it’s just how the games are going. We love our building, we love our fans – that’s just how it’s gone.”
Whatever the reason for the Friday home game woes, the seventh-ranked Irish continue to excel overall, outscoring opponents 23-10 on the season. They’ll need to keep up their level of play in their current stretch, though. Notre Dame plays top-ranked Boston College on Friday, before traveling to Yost Arena to take on Michigan and coming home for a Thanksgiving series with North Dakota.
“It’s a big stretch for us here,” Jackson said. “Going on the road for the next three in very tough venues is going to be a challenge, so making sure we took care of business at home was extremely important.”
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