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Irish to lean on experience in second-straight Frozen Four

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Two teams. Two Final Fours.

Notre Dame will have a busy couple of weekends as the women's basketball team makes its way to Columbus for the Final Four, followed by Notre Dame hockey's own chase for a national title.

The Irish will play Michigan next Thursday, April 5, in their second Frozen Four appearance in a row.

While most of this Notre Dame team was around for last year's trip to Chicago, they took the underdog role back then. This time, the Irish are a number-one seed and expect to have a better outcome than last year's semifinal blowout loss to Denver.

Even though each team is different, head coach Jeff Jackson says prior years can do wonders for building towards an ultimate goal.

Now, the task is to learn from that experience.

"It's a new team that went through that experience last year," he said. I think that's a positive for us as far as just all the distractions and all the things that go along with the Frozen Four. They need to just be focused on us and that's probably the most important thing, to not allow outside distractions, in any capacity, get in the way of us being successful."

While it's certainly helpful to understand the pressures and distractions of the Frozen Four, the bright lights won't be the only aspect familiar to the Irish.

Three of the four teams remaining in the hunt for a national title are from the Big Ten conference. The Notre Dame and Michigan matchup will be just one possible meeting of conference opponents. Ohio State awaits in the other semifinal against Minnesota-Duluth.

"That's kind of a tribute to how good the conference was," said defenseman Jordan Gross. "There weren't any easy weekends throughout the year and it's kind of showing now."

The Irish topped the Buckeyes in the regular season championship-clinching game in February, then again in the Big Ten Tournament championship in March. If they can get past Michigan, a third title-clinching matchup could be at hand against Ohio State.

But still, Jackson says his squad needs to focus solely on the first task of beating the Wolverines.

"Every game you play is either going to give you an opportunity to play another one or to be finished," he said. "I think they've bought into that and I think we've played like it's a championship game mentality."

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