Back in November, I flew myself in to Chicago and picked up a car and drove the 100 mile trek to South Bend. There were several motives for this trip for the inner sports fanatic in me, but to say the least, the main reason was to watch what I had hoped would be a Nanooks road sweep in the newest arena in college hockey. That shrine that the Irish get to play in is pretty unreal in many ways, but nonetheless, I was hoping that the 'Nooks could wipe the ice with that team. Cody Kunyk and Jarret Granberg teamed up in goals and in false hope for this venturous blogger. The first two goals of the game, scored less than 30 seconds apart for the 'Nooks was just crazy. Jaime Schwartzwald from CBS 13 was also on the trip, we looked at each other, and he said to me nearly verbatim "If we could actually cheer up here, I'd be going absolutely crazy right now". In a first period that saw 7 goals scored, 3 of them were scored by 37 Cody Kunyk, an impressive feat of his scoring capabilities.
Sadly, the Nanooks did not win that game, or the Saturday rematch that followed. But that sweep at the hands of the Irish changed the tide of the 1st half of the Nanooks' season for the better, winning four out of the following six games to close out 2011.
Unfortunately, that momentum did not carry over into 2012 after a 34 day respite as the 'Nooks again took a while to find their stride. A long two-week, four game road trip brought the 'Nooks home with 4 points through a couple of shootouts, but no wins to call their own.
Returning home, the Nanooks faced the Bowling Green Falcons for the first series of 2012. A series in which many expected the Nanooks to triumph, a slice of humble pie was served for dessert as Bowling Green rolled raked the team over the coals for a 3-1 win. The next night saw the same kind of rebirth that I saw after the 'Nooks left Indiana the first time, resetting themselves and playing a full 60 minutes of hockey for the 4-1 win.
I'm hoping history repeats itself once again and the Nanooks can start rolling, get a streak started, and start clawing their way back up into the standings. And what better team than the Irish?
Notre Dame's offense sits happy at about middle of the pack in the country, scoring 2.92 goals per game, against a Nanook defense that allows... 2.58 goals per game. While the Nanook offensive average is bottom tier, they have improved their 2.22 average up to 2.83 since the break. A modest improvement, which is great, but the wins haven't been there. The 'Nooks need a complete game from the full lineup to take six points out of this series.
TJ Tynan remains the leading scorer, which I'm sure seems like breaking news to anyone familiar with the Irish hockey program since he came on board. He only leads in points by 10 over everyone else, including leading goal scorer Anders Lee. The kid is impressive, he just outworks everyone, and he just attacks the puck and doesn't stop until he has it. Kind of like holding a ball in front of a dog, eventually the guy is going to jump out, grab it, and probably bite you in the process.
Who parks in net for Notre Dame remains to be seen. Jeff Jackson is about as consistent with picking goaltenders as Kim Kardashian is with picking husbands; relationships seem to last just long enough for them to do something they don't like, then they dump him. Steven Summerhays, the tendy from Anchorage has better numbers, but Mike Johnson has more experience. But it was Johnson that Kunyk and company torched for 4 goals in the first 20 minutes in the last series. Summerhays has started 3 of the last 4, in which he's earned 1 win. Will he be the next Kris Humphries? We'll see tomorrow night when the starters are announced at the Carlson Center. Game starts at 7:05PM.
I'll have a pre-game post up about an hour before the game starts. I will, of course, include links to where you can watch/listen to the game. Also, be sure to follow yours truly on Twitter for pure gold tweets during the game and throughout the week. I'm rapidly approaching 1,000 followers, so spread the word! Tomorrow is Follow Friday (#FF) after all...