The Notre Dame hockey team has just three wins this season.

But that doesn’t mean No. 5 Michigan (7-1-0 CCHA, 9-4-1 overall) is overlooking the Fighting Irish (2-5-3, 3-6-4) going into its home-and-home series this weekend.

“In the past, Notre Dame has given us a great game,” senior alternate captain Brandon Rogers said. “They’re a solid team, they have a lot of good players, and we’re going to have to play our best to win this weekend. On paper, their record might not indicate how good their team is.”

Notre Dame has given the Wolverines problems in recent years. Over the past three seasons, Michigan is a mere 2-3-1 against the team from South Bend, and the Wolverines have dropped the last three contests between the squads. Last year, Notre Dame earned the season sweep of Michigan in South Bend by scoring a total of nine goals — while allowing just three — during a weekend of games at the Joyce Center.

But the Wolverines have more than simply revenge to play for — they are smarting after an embarrassing Thanksgiving weekend. Then-No. 1 Michigan dropped a 5-1 contest to then-No. 3 Minnesota before losing to then-No. 2 Wisconsin, 3-1.

“Last weekend was kind of an awakening for us,” defenseman Jason Dest said. “(And) last year is in the back of our minds.”

Junior forward Andrew Ebbett knows that teams will not roll over for Michigan, no matter how bad their records are.

“They haven’t been playing that well in the league, but we’re ready for them because they play us tough every time we play them,” Ebbett said. “Every team comes to play Michigan as hard as they can. They’re going to give us their best.”

Notre Dame is no stranger to upsetting highly ranked teams. On Oct. 22, the Irish toppled then-No. 1 Boston College despite being outshot, 52-17. But Michigan coach Red Berenson is more preoccupied with his own team, not its opponent.

“They’re a good team defensively,” Berenson said. “When you go on the road, there’s no pressure on you. But my concern is not Notre Dame, it’s Michigan. We have to get our game on track. Notre Dame’s going to come in and try and take us off the track.”

With just four games left to play before winter break, the coaches and players recognize the importance of gaining momentum. And despite last weekend’s struggles, Michigan still sits in second in the CCHA with 14 points, just one behind No. 9 Ohio State, which has two games in hand.

“These (CCHA games) become bigger games,” Berenson said. “Last week didn’t get us going in the direction we want to go. We’ve got to put that behind us now and start looking at the CCHA again.”

Rogers, for one, feels a sense of desperation entering the homestretch of 2004.

“We’re in the race for first place in the league,” Rogers said. “All the points are precious. All (the games are) going to be really important.”

As far as Ebbett is concerned, a split this weekend would not be well-received in the Michigan locker room.

“We want both wins, for sure,” he said.

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