After splitting last weekend’s series at home against the Wisconsin Badgers, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish find themselves in unfamiliar territory. With just two weekends left in the college hockey regular season, they sit at number 17 in the college hockey Pairwise rankings, making them the first team out of the NCAA Tournament. They’ll look to make their case to get back into the top 16 this weekend as they head north for a series with the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
WHERE, WHEN, AND HOW TO WATCH
Where: 3M Arena at Mariucci, Minneapolis, MN
When: Friday, Feb. 22, 9:00 PM ET (Game 1) and Saturday, Feb. 23, 5:30 PM (Game 2)
Watch: Big Ten Network (Game 1) and Fox Sports North (Game 2)
In what will be one of the more intriguing series this weekend, both teams find themselves in a similar position. Minnesota, one of college hockey’s bluebloods, missed the tournament last season and hasn’t made the Frozen Four since 2014. Like the Irish, they are on the outside looking in if the tournament were to start today.
Hope seemed to be lost for Minnesota after being swept at the hands of the Penn State Nittany Lions by a combined score of 13-4, however they made a huge statement last weekend by sweeping the conference-leading Ohio State Buckeyes and now sit two points ahead of Notre Dame at second in the Big Ten. While they can’t catch Ohio State at this point, they’ll look to sweep the Irish at home in their final series of conference play to strengthen their grip on the second seed in the Big Ten tournament.
Leading the way for the Gophers is Minnesota native Tyler Sheehy. The senior forward is second in the Big Ten in points, and a goal and an assist in Saturday’s victory in Columbus. Twelve on his goals this season have come with a man advantage, where Minnesota is one of the most dangerous teams in the nation. Their 26% power-play percentage is second only to Penn State among Big Ten teams.
Both goaltenders, Cale Morris and Dylan St. Cyr, looked good for the Irish last weekend against Wisconsin. Both faced north of thirty shots and allowed a pair of goals each. In order to have a chance at the two-seed in the Big Ten Tournament, they’ll need their netminders to carry their superb play into this weekend.
Depsite the fact that Notre Dame is only two points behind a Minnesota team that won’t play a conference series after this weekend, it’s still a must-sweep for the Irish. Just four points separate Minnesota, Notre Dame, Penn State, and the Michigan Wolverines. Now, when it’s needed most, I see the experience of last year’s postseason run paying off for the Irish, and I pick them to sweep the Gophers in Minnesota.