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Holy War on Ice

Nov 8, 2012, 4:26 PM EDT

Bryan Rust scores the game winner in overtime against BC in 2011. (Photo by Matt Cashore)

With all 5,022 fans – and trust me, there were 5,022 – on their feet, Bryan Rust skated up the ice while the numbers on the clock dwindled down from 10. Opposing goaltender Parker Milner had thwarted Notre Dame’s last 20 shots on goal, but Rust ripped one last attempt toward the Boston College net.

Although it first appeared Milner made his final save of the night to preserve the tie, 1.1 seconds of overtime froze on the clock as Rust’s shot trickled through the five-hole. Final score: No. 3 Boston College 2, No. 4 Notre Dame 3.

As Notre Dame and Boston College players prepare for their matchup this Friday, they will surely have not forgotten the last time they played – Compton Arena’s “Dedication Night” thriller last November. The rivalry has added some intensity in recent years, as the Irish have taken six of the last eight games in the “Holy War on Ice.”

“We do remember last year it was a huge night for this whole program. Obviously it’s on the road this year, we have to give a little more energy,” Rust said. “We have to take the energy to them as opposed to let them take it to us.”

Like three of the past four meetings, the two teams will play the Friday night before the schools’ respective football teams take the field. Although they both read “Notre Dame vs. Boston College,” the two rivalries could not be any more different.

On the gridiron, the Eagles usually try to play spoiler to the greatest team in football history. While the Irish have won 11 national championships, Boston College’s closest claim to a title since 1940 is taking one away from the Irish in its 1993 victory over Lou Holtz’s top-ranked team. Notre Dame’s 8-0 2002 team also fell to the Eagles, who will be hoping to complete the feat again this year against Brian Kelly’s 9-0 squad.

The story is different on the ice, where BC claims five national championships and 31 Frozen Four appearances, dwarfing Notre Dame’s two appearances and zero titles.

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

Jackson points to the 2008 playoffs when the rivalry started to crescendo. Notre Dame’s first appearance in the Frozen Four saw their national championship aspirations die – in a championship game loss to the Eagles.

Since that matchup, the two teams have met every year, with the Irish claiming a 3-1 advantage. The Eagles were the 2nd-ranked team in 2008, No. 1 in 2010, and No. 3 in 2011. All were upset Irish victories.

Once again, Notre Dame has the chance to bring down its highly ranked rival. The seventh-ranked Irish will take on a Boston College team that is currently No. 1 in both polls.

“We kind of have the underdog mentality,” Rust said. “We know we’re a good team, but against them we’re kind of overlooked. It gives us that extra edge we need to play with a little more fight.”

The Irish have certainly had success as the underdog against Boston College. They are 4-0 in the last four games of the rivalry when BC is the #1 team in the country.

“Don’t jinx us,” Jackson laughed.

Jinx or no, Notre Dame will try to make it 5-0 against their greatest nonconference foe. If the game’s anything like last year, it will be one for the ages.

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