Notre Dame hockey: Irish prep for frozen Fenway

SBT Correspondent

MISHAWAKA -- Notre Dame will face a college hockey Goliath Saturday to open the second half of its season, but the Irish may also have to contend with Hercules.

Winter Storm Hercules was just beginning to push into Northern Indiana on Tuesday, around the time the Irish took to the ice at Merrifield Park for their seventh annual outdoor “Practice on the Pond.”

By Friday, the Boston area, where No. 14 Notre Dame will face No. 6 Boston College outdoors at Fenway Park on Saturday, will be contending with the same weather system, which is expected to bring very cold temperatures and possibly up to a foot of snow in some parts of New England. That potential could have the Irish scrambling for a practice facility.

“We’re already being told that Friday we may have to practice indoors because they’re expecting six to 10 inches of snow,” said Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson. “We’ll probably practice at Boston University or some place local.”

Weather was not much of a factor back in February, when the Irish played their first ever outdoor game in the Hockey City Classic at Chicago’s Soldier Field. The temperature remained below freezing and the only issue came from the persistent sun that afternoon that caused some ice melt.

With a 7:30 p.m. start in Boston on Saturday, sun and melting ice do not figure to be factors, but intense cold and the possibility of lingering snow could be.

“It’s going to be a lot colder than what we experienced last year,” said Jackson, who was testing his outdoor gear and already making changes based on Tuesday’s frigid late afternoon temperature in Mishawaka. “I already know I’ll have to wear a second layer of gloves, and maybe another pair of socks. I’m working on things today just to get a feel for it. At least these guys get to warm up and exercise. I’m stuck behind the bench.”

The players were trying out different layers of insulation as well, figuring out what will keep them warm but not restrict their movement too much, particularly goaltender Steven Summerhays.

“It’s more about your feet and your head,” Jackson said. “Boston College is the kind of team that’s going to keep him busy, though, so he might not have a chance to get too cold.”

The Irish are looking to start the second half of this season much better than they have in the two previous seasons, which saw extended winless streaks threaten to derail what had been promising starts.

At 10-7-1 and 3-4-1 in Hockey East, this year’s first half has been uneven at best. The Irish sit in eighth place in Hockey East, while the Eagles (12-4-1 overall, 6-1-1 HEA) are tied for first with Providence.

Following the Fenway game, Notre Dame plays six games over three straight weekends at home against familiar opponents. The schedule is set up for a strong start to the second half, now it’s up to the Irish to finally make that happen, beginning with a quality opponent in an unusual environment.

“We’ve been working well this week, getting back into that game intensity,” said team captain Jeff Costello. “We’re looking to go out there and enjoy the experience, but we want to win. It’s a big conference game.”

Update from Sweden

Notre Dame will be without two forwards this weekend as Vince Hinostroza and Thomas DiPauli compete for Team USA in the World Junior Championships in Malmo, Sweden.

Boston College will be missing some key pieces from its defense, with goaltender Thatcher Demko and defensemen Steve Santini and Ian McCoshen all in Sweden with Team USA.

Hinostroza had a four-point game (two goals, two assists) in an 8-0 USA win over Germany on Sunday, and has shared the third line with his Irish teammate, DiPauli.

The Americans faced their biggest test of the tournament, Tuesday morning against Canada, but couldn’t stay out of the penalty box in the third period of a 3-2 loss to the Canadians. Canada won the pool and will be the top seed when the quarterfinals begin on Thursday. Team USA will face either Russia or Finland, depending on later results from Tuesday.

Through the first three preliminary round games of the tournament, Hinostroza had three goals and two assists, and DiPauli, playing more of a defensive forward/penalty killing role, had two assists and a +/- rating of +4.

Notre Dame goalie Joe Rogers, left, shares a laugh with Heather, Zara, right, and Tim Dukeman, background, during an open Notre Dame hockey team practice on Tuesday, at Merrifield Park in Mishawaka.
Notre Dame players wait to start a drill during an open Notre Dame hockey team practice on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, at Merrifield Park in Mishawaka. The team practiced outdoors as part of its annual "Practice on the Pond" for fans. Tuesday's event was the seventh time the Irish hockey team has practiced at Merrifield Park. SBT Photo/JAMES BROSHER

Who: No. 14 Notre Dame (10-7-1, 3-4-1 HEA) vs. No. 6 Boston College (12-4-2, 6-1-1)

When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Fenway Park; Boston, Mass.

Radio: WHFB (99.9 FM)

Twitter: @NDHockey; @NDhockeySBT