Mar 1, 2013, 8:47 AM EDT
The second-ranked Irish take the field on Saturday in the first game of the season at Arlotta Stadium, coming off an impressive overtime win against the eight-ranked annual Big Ten foe, Penn State. Head coach Kevin Corrigan has to be impressed by his team’s maturity. The Irish are playing with the attitude that no game has too large a venue to compete and play at a high level.
The difficult early season slate continues on Saturday with another highly-ranked opponent in #11 North Carolina. The Irish are building quite a resume with Coach Corrigan’s strategy of packing the schedule with three of the most talented teams in the NCAA right off the bat.
Notre Dame will rely on two ends of the spectrum for offensive success. Jim Marlatt, a junior midfielder, will put his hot streak of eight points on the line against a stout UNC defense. The veteran Marlatt has six goals and leads the team in scoring. Just behind him is the freshman sensation, 5’8″ attackman Matt Kavanagh, who has exploded on the national scene with five goals, including the game winner in overtime of the 10-9 victory over Penn State.
Senior goalie John Kemp has made 20 saves on the year and needs to continue to play well to attempt to shut down Marcus Holman, one of the leading point scorers in the country with over five points per game for North Carolina with nine goals and eight assists in total. Jimmy Bitter also is off to a hot start for UNC with eight goals and ten total points. 6’4 Irish defenseman Brian Buglione will try to assert his will and not let any potential Tar Heel scorers near the crease.
The keys to victory in this game are for the Irish to control possession of the ball. The longer the team has to work the offense and find favorable sets for shots on goal, the greater the likelihood the Irish will be able to continue to score at a fast pace. Notre Dame also must attempt to prevent penalties from occurring and from finding themselves in man-down situations. Man-downs lead to goals for opposing teams, especially a skillful team like North Carolina.
Finally, if Notre Dame can jump out to an early lead in front of a spirited home crowd, it should heavily play to the team’s advantage. Fans are hungry for a national championship at Notre Dame after recent years of tournament success. A 3-0 start would further increase the hype surrounding this elite team. A win this weekend could bump the Irish past top-ranked Maryland in next week’s edition of the national polls. North Carolina travels to a hostile environment to face the red hot Irish on Saturday with an opening face-off time of noon ET. If you can’t make it out to Arlotta, watch it live on UND.com.
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