April 11, 2008

Old rivalry gets fresh look

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DENVER – Don’t expect Boston College to rip up patches of ice tomorrow night.

On another surface this showdown between Catholic universities would come with bad blood and painful history attached, but there’s no 15-year old iconic image of an Eagles last-second slap shot costing the Irish a national championship.

Well, at least not yet.

“I think it’s going to get that way eventually,” said sophomore forward Ryan Thang. “Football obviously paved the way. As our team progresses and our team progresses I think we can get a huge rivalry with Boston College.”

There is some history here, Boston College owning a 14-10-2 edge and the Lefty Smith–John “Snooks” Kelley Award, named for the programs’ coaches when the series began in 1969, going to the regular season winner. Notre Dame took the last meeting 7-1 on Oct. 20, 2006.

But any rivalry that buds between these programs will be fueled by what happens at the Pepsi Center on Saturday. The Eagles wouldn’t mind it, even with their historic rivalries in the Northeast while the Irish maintain Midwestern ties in the CCHA.

They’ve faced off eight times in the last 10 seasons with the teams splitting 3-3-2.

“I hope it grows because it is a unique and special game,” said Eagles forward Matt Greene. “It’s great from Notre Dame’s program and ours as well. I think it could become a rivalry.”

Setting The Over/Under

As the first No. 4 seed to advance to the national championship game, it’s easy to identify Notre Dame as the underdog. But Boston College, which will make its third straight title game appearance, wants no part of that distinction, not after watching the Irish jump to a 3-0 lead on top-ranked Michigan.

“If we went into this game thinking we were the favorite, we’d be making a huge mistake,” Greene said. “I know for sure that they’re not going to think of us as the favorite, so why should we?”

Well, not exactly.

Notre Dame is happy to hold its underdog card, which helped the Irish upset New Hampshire, Michigan State and Michigan on the way to the championship game. Add the Eagles’ Frozen Four experience to the mix and there’s little doubt where Notre Dame thinks the pressure should go.

“I would say they are the favorite,” said defenseman Brock Sheahan. “Everyone looks at us like we’re a Cinderella team.”

But one that knows how to play the heavyweight too. Sheahan said part of Notre Dame’s second-half swoon, the Irish went 7-10-4 in their final 21 games entering the NCAA tournament, came because opponents started taking the Irish seriously. After “sneaking up” on opponents last season to win the CCHA tournament and a No. 1 seed, Notre Dame became a known quantity.

But the Irish have recreated their underdog tag in the playoffs, partly because Notre Dame was among the final teams to make the postseason and partly because the Frozen Four is usually a clique of a few superpowers.

“People do expect to see the same teams all the time and that probably helps us out a bit,” Sheahan said. “I would say we’re definitely not the favorites, that’s the way I’d look at it and I’m sure most other people do too.”

Hanson Update

Christian Hanson maintained that he’ll play against Boston College after twice twisting his knee against Michigan, the first time early in the first period on a check into the boards and then later on the opening face off in overtime. Hanson needed help from teammates to get off the ice.

“It’s a little sore today,” he said. “But I feel ready to go tomorrow.”

Hanson took part in the team’s open skate on Friday.

Welcome Home

Regardless of the outcome Saturday night, Notre Dame wants to welcome the hockey team back on campus when it arrives at 3:45 p.m. Sunday. The University hopes to organize a small rally at the traffic circle on the north end of Notre Dame Avenue. The student body and general public are encouraged to attend.


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