New Hampshire looks pretty good this time of year to Notre Dame hockey coach Jeff Jackson.

It’s far away from the Midwest, where the Irish have lost four of their last six games, and far, far away from Detroit - where the Irish recently lost two straight in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs.

“Being away from the Midwest is probably not a bad thing as far as our focus goes,” said Jackson.
Notre Dame opens its NCAA tournament play Saturday at 7:30 p.m. against Merrimack College at the Verizon Wireless Center in Manchester, N.H.

“I know it’s not great for our fans, but when we played in Colorado Springs a few years ago, we were allowed to really focus on our team, just doing what we have to do. Not worrying about mom and dad and all the friends and family being around.

“Hopefully, it will just get us back mentally.”

The Irish lost to Michigan, 4-2, in Saturday’s CCHA third-place game, and Jackson said the week of rest certainly won’t hurt.

“A big part of it is going to be for our guys to be healthy,” Jackson said. “Not from an injury standpoint but from having gone through (some) sickness the last 10 days.”

One of the players who caught the bug was goalie Mike Johnson - along with right wing Ryan Guentzel, who said he was fine earlier this week.

Going up against the seventh ranked Warriors, the ninth-ranked Irish know they better be ready.

“They have a good goaltender,” said Jackson of Joe Cannata. “We will have our hands full. It’s going to be a challenge.

“We’ll have to defend well, but we’re also going to have to take advantage of our opportunities, offensively.”

Irish captain Joe Lavin, who faced the Warriors as a player for Providence during the early part of his collegiate career, said the program was just “up and coming,” at that time.

“They were just starting to form their foundation,” he said.

“They are always an older team, very, very physical, very smart, very methodical in the way they do things.”

They’ve improved, since his time there, Lavin said.

“Now that they have a lot of skill and stuff, they can use their energy and their bodies and their size and their skill,” he said.

“Hockey East is a great conference,” he added. “They obviously did a great job.

“We just need to be ready for the physicality.”

The Hockey East Association is more of a run-and-gun league, however, Lavin said. “It’s more transition. It’s kind of a track meet.”

The Warriors, true to Lavin’s words, have combined with opponents to score a total of 50 goals in their last seven games. Merrimack has seven double-digit goal-scorers for the season with right wing Jesse Todd leading the way with 17.

“The CCHA is a little bit more structured,” Lavin said. “I think it’s going to work out well for us because we are such a great skating team.

“We don’t want to get into a track meet, but we will be able to handle it for sure.”

Jackson does believe the Warriors will push the pace.

“They are a good offensive team,” he said. “They transition well. They do a good job of coming back into their own end.”

Notre Dame will have to call on its offensive depth, Jackson said.

“Our offensive depth has been part of our success this year. We have not had that consistency over the last six games,” Jackson said.

“But when our team is playing well, you’ve got six, seven, 10 guys on the score sheet with different guys scoring.”

Regardless of what Merrimack brings to the table, Jackson knows the Irish must come in determined.

“We just have to look forward and do the things we do well and get our mojo back,” he said.

Staff writer Jim Meenan:
jmeenan@sbtinfo.com
574-235-6342