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September 19, 2023

Hammond, Falcons to battle Notre Dame in CCHA playoffs


Andrew Hammond stops a shot from a Michigan State forward in a game earlier this season.

Since Chris Bergeron has taken over as head coach of the BG hockey program, the Falcons have had strong success in the postseason.

The Falcons will need more of that road success this weekend as they head to Notre Dame for a best-of-three series. Each game, including Sunday’s, if necessary, is scheduled to begin at 7:05 p.m.

The team has won four Central Collegiate Hockey Association postseason series’ in his nearly three years as head coach. Each of those series wins has come on the road.

On the line is a berth in the CCHA semifinals at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The Falcons are looking to make back-to-back trips to the Joe; Notre Dame was most recently in the semifinals in 2011.

BG and Notre Dame have met four times already this season, and are renewing recent acquaintances.

Two weekends ago against the Irish, BG was outscored 8-4 in the weekend series. The second game in that series marked the first start Andrew Hammond made in goal since Feb. 2 due to a knee injury.

Even though he played half the game the night before in relief of Tommy Burke, Hammond appeared rusty, allowing four goals on 26 shots.

“It’s tough dealing with not being on the ice for awhile,” Hammond said. “You get out of your routine. Once you start trying to get back into it, it maybe takes a little while. Now we’ve had a couple of weekends where I’ve gotten back into it and I think I’m right back where I was before.”

Hammond picked up where he left off prior to the injury, stopping 70 of 75 shots in the three games against Lake Superior, good for a .933 save percent. He posted a 1.68 goals-against average for the weekend.

“I think he got back to being Andrew,” Bergeron said. “We were disappointed with what happened at Notre Dame, because it doesn’t happen. Sometimes you see him give up one goal he’d like to have back, but not more than one.

“This past weekend, the rust had been knocked off. He made some big time saves. It’s not a surprise that he’s back on top of his game.”

The Falcons entered that series having lost two of three games, which severely hampered their chances of earning home-ice in the first round of the CCHA playoffs.

Now, the Falcons head back to Notre Dame having won back-to-back games by a combined score of 13-3.

“The perspective we’re going to take is if we’re doing things the right way, we’re a team that can score,” Bergeron said. “We’ve struggled at times with that this year … so that means if we don’t do things a certain way, we won’t score.”

The Irish boast a talented, deep group of players led by Anders Lee, a First-Team All-CCHA forward and a finalist for CCHA Player of the Year. He is second in the league with 34 points.

Six Notre Dame skaters have at least 20 points on the season. Goalie Steven Summerhays is fifth in the CCHA with a 2.03 goals-against average.

“Their depth, to me, is their biggest challenge,” Bergeron said. “If it’s not [T.J.] Tynan, it’s someone else; if it’s not Lee, it’s someone else. If it’s not a forward, it’s a defenseman; if it’s not the defensemen, then Summerhays or [Mike] Johnson will be there.

“That depth has so many layers. It’s big and strong depth, it’s skill depth.”

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