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Notre Dame hockey rested and ready for postseason run

NOTRE DAME, Ind. - It was a long regular season for Notre Dame hockey, including lots of ups and even some downs. Though those experiences will be taken into the postseason, the records are erased as the Irish prepare for their first crack at the Big Ten Tournament.

The Irish take the ice this weekend, hosting Penn State for the conference semifinals on Saturday.

Notre Dame earned a bye in the first round thanks to a regular season Big Ten title, aided in part by a program record 16-game winning streak at the beginning of conference play.

But now the Irish have turned the page towards the next step on their quest for a national title.

"We have an opportunity to win another championship, a playoff championship," said head coach Jeff Jackson. "But to do that we have to win on Saturday. All that success we had in the middle part of the season gave us that opportunity, and now that we've earned that, we have to earn the next opportunity."

With the first-round bye, it has been a while since the Irish last played a game, meaning they're rested and ready to hit the ice once again.

After ending the regular season on a down-turn (including the season's only sweep at the hands of Michigan), Notre Dame has tried to rachet up the competition in practice.

"The days that we have practice have been real competitive," said Jackson. "We've intentionally tried to keep our competitive edge. Then, work on the details of the game."

One way the Irish tried to keep up the competition was through what they call the "Irish Olympics" in miniature intra-squad games. While the week off was certainly welcome, the players felt those games were important to avoid any rust as the postseason nears.

"I think to get us into a competitive nature and a competitive state of mind is huge for us," said defenseman Tory Dello. "We've been battling the last two weeks in practice trying to make it the most game-like as we can."

The Big Ten semifinal game takes place at Compton Family Ice Arena on 5:30 p.m. Saturday, as the Irish try to clinch a spot in next weekend's Big Ten championship.

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