Notre Dame receives NCAA hockey bid
With four losses in its last six games, the end of the regular season was not too pleasing for the Notre Dame hockey team.
But after the NCAA announced its 16-team field Sunday, it didn't really matter. The Irish are in the field - the No. 3 seed in the Northeast Regional -- and have a chance to reach the Frozen Four.
"The opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament is another opportunity for our team to take a step," said Irish hockey coach Jeff Jackson Sunday at Club Naimoli in the Joyce Center after watching the NCAA Selection Show on ESPN2.
The Irish will pay Merrimack College of North Andover, Mass. Saturday at 7:30 p.m. EDT in Manchester, N.H. at the Verizon Wireless Center.
"They earned the opportunity to be here," Jackson said of his club. "That's the positive thing."
Merrimack is making its first NCAA appearance since 1988, and just its second overall. For the Irish, it will be the fourth appearance in the field since 2007 and fifth overall.
The Irish are back in after going 13-17-8 a year ago. It's not only a credit to the influx of 12 talented freshmen and a sophomore class that had four key contributors, but also the leadership of two Irish juniors and four seniors.
"I think that our seniors and our juniors have done an awful lot to make our team what it is today," Jackson said. "I am sure there were a lot of question marks (they had) going into the season. But they did a good job of laying the foundation, of building a strong camaraderie amongst their team and acclimating these young kids to feeling confident enough to have success and not have anybody envy their success."
There are plenty of familiar faces for the Irish in the field with three additional Central Collegiate Hockey Association teams plus North Dakota and Boston College, who also were on the Irish schedule.
It's the sixth straight year the CCHA has had four teams make the field.
Conference champ Michigan, CCHA tourney champ Miami of Ohio and tourney runner-up Western Michigan are in the field of 16 teams that 58 Division I schools vie for every year.
Michigan is a No. 2 seed in the West Regional at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis where it faces former CCHA member Nebraska-Omaha.
Western Michigan is the No. 3 seed in the Midwest Regional at Green Bay, Wis., where its will face Denver. Miami is the No. 1 seed in the Northeast Regional. The RedHawks will face host New Hampshire.
Overall, Notre Dame is 5-5-4 against five teams on their schedule that were selected.
Jackson is not even thinking about the possibility of the Irish getting another shot at one of them -- Miami -- which knocked off the Irish 6-2 Friday at Joe Louis Arena. Think about Miami, whom the Irish could meet for the regional title if they beat Merrimack, and you won't see them, Jackson said. Merrimack is plenty good.
"They are going to be as good a team as we have faced this weekend," Jackson said. "Maybe better. They are the real deal."
Jackson watched some of the Warriors' 5-2 loss to Boston College on TV Saturday night.
"(Coach) Mark Dennehy has done a tremendous job there," Jackson said. "They had a decent year there last year and this year they were as good a team as there was in Hockey East.
"They gave Boston College all they could handle in that (Hockey East Association title) game last night. They play an uptempo style. They've got really good special teams. They seem to be a high energy team. They compete real hard.''
Even before last weekend, Merrimack, 25-9-4, was ranked seventh, one ahead of Notre Dame, which comes in at 23-13-5.
"Everybody knows that we are a better team than we showed last weekend," said Irish captain Joe Lavin. "So we are just going to come out with a lot of energy."
"It's a different atmosphere, a different tournament," said fellow senior Calle Ridderwall, a player who emerged in the NCAA tourney for the 2008 team that reached the Frozen Four despite losing two in the CCHA tourney to end that regular season prior to its NCAA run. "We've just got to look forward."
Staff writer Jim Meenan:
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.
Los Angeles Times welcomes civil dialogue about our stories; you must register with the site to participate. We filter comments for language and adherence to our Terms of Service, but not for factual accuracy. By commenting, you agree to these legal terms. Please flag inappropriate comments.
Having technical problems? Check here for guidance.