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Hockey to face off with Irish

Even though they are called the Fighting Irish, the Falcon hockey team probably will not need to drop the gloves against another Central Collegiate Hockey Association foe this weekend.

That isn’t to say, however, that BG (12-10-0, 9-7-0 CCHA) should not expect a fight of a different nature out of ninth-ranked Notre Dame (18-9-1, 11-6-1) tonight and tomorrow in a home-and-home series.

As the Falcons witnessed the first two times they lost to the Irish, 4-2 on Oct. 23 and 2-1 on Nov. 20, Jeff Jackson’s team doesn’t commit many penalties. In fact, during last Friday’s melee alone, Western Michigan took nearly six times the penalty minutes than Notre Dame did against the Falcons in their first two meetings combined (ND’s 22 compared to WMU’s 120).

‘They’re very consistent in what they do,’ BG coach Scott Paluch said. ‘They’re not going to change much from when we saw them in October, or basically even from last year for that matter.’

Because the Fighting Irish have dropped in national ranking in recent weeks, it is very likely that Jackson’s squad will accept nothing less of themselves than a sweep this weekend.

2008 has not been kind to Notre Dame so far, as they now stand 1-4-1 in the New Year. They surrendered a sweep to Michigan last weekend, and managed to tie Michigan State after losing the first game of that series on Jan. 11.

But the Falcons will be just as hungry, if not more so, for a couple more victories of their own in 2008.

BG has not beaten Notre Dame in the last 11 meetings, dating back to a weekend sweep in late January 2005. In hopes of ending that streak, the Falcons have been working extra hard on special team plays in practice this week.

‘We were so hot on our power play for such a long time, but we’ve been in a little bit of a lull there with that and we want to try to get our confidence back,’ Paluch said. ‘As we get closer and closer to playoff time, special teams really get magnified and we want to be on top as we get there.’

Todd McIlrath knows as well as anyone how effective the BG power play has been at times this season, especially since he has assisted two of Derek Whitmore’s goals on the man advantage thus far.

‘Not everybody in the league can say that they have a guy, where, if they give him the puck on a scoring opportunity that it’s almost automatic,’ McIlrath said.

The sophomore has been nearly as automatic when passing to Kevin Schmidt in overtime. That pair connected yet again last weekend against Western Michigan to give the Falcons their 12th win of the season.

‘He and I talk a lot because we’re on the power play together, and we spend a lot of time passing pucks to each other in practice. It’s kind of become a joke, you know 10 from 24, 10 from 24,’ McIlrath said, referring to Schmidt’s and his respective jersey numbers.

If all four Falcon lines could have the type of communication this weekend that McIlrath has had with his line mates in the past, Notre Dame might have to wait a while longer to get that second win of 2008.

‘We just need to come out and battle,’ said Tommy Dee who will be one of five Falcons looking to battle without his fists after serving a one-game suspension for fighting with Western.

That battle (haymakers or not) will begin at 7:35 p.m. tonight in South Bend, and will conclude tomorrow at 7:05 p.m. from the BGSU Ice Arena.

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