The Notre Dame Fighting Irish just continue to be unstoppable in the Big Ten Tournament. A year after winning their first conference tournament as a member of the Big Ten, the Irish picked up right where they left off by sweeping the Michigan State Spartans at home in the quarterfinals. Their next challenge will be against a Minnesota Golden Gophers team that is fresh off eliminating the Michigan Wolverines.
WHERE, WHEN, AND HOW TO WATCH
Where: Compton Family Ice Arena, Notre Dame, IN
When: Saturday, Mar. 16, 7:00 ET
Watch: Big Ten Network
The theme of Notre Dame’s run to the 2018 national championship game was the exceptional play of Richter Award winner Cale Morris. While he hasn’t quite enjoyed the same success he saw last season, last weekend’s quarterfinal series against Michigan State showed that he is still more than capable of putting the team on his back if needed. The Notre Dame netminder stopped all fifty-five shots he saw over the weekend, en route to a series sweep. For the Irish to make their second straight Big Ten championship game appearance, he’ll need to be dominant again, this time against a Minnesota offense that should provide more of a challenge.
The Gophers have two of the most feared forwards in the conference. Junior Rem Pitlick ended the regular season tied for the Big Ten lead in goals, with fifteen. In addition to the second generation Gopher, Notre Dame will also have to worry about senior captain Tyler Sheehy, who was tied for the Big Ten in points, with thirty-four.
Unlike in their matchup against the Spartans, history is not on the side of the Fighting Irish this weekend. In the four contests this season between Minnesota and Notre Dame, the Gophers had three victories. Every game was decided by just one goal, with the exception of a 5-1 Minnesota victory in their first meeting on January 11th.
First year coach Bob Motzko was tasked with turning the Gophers around, as they finished with an uncharacteristic record of 19-17-2 a season ago. Minnesota comes into the semifinals not only off the heels of a sweep of the Wolverines, but winners of five straight. Their last loss was at the hands of the team they’ll see on Saturday, 3-2, in Minneapolis.
For those who try to downplay the importance of one regular season game, this is a great of example of how important it is to get every point possible in the standings. Notre Dame finished one point ahead of Minnesota, which is the reason why they will have home ice advantage in this semifinal game. The Irish will win a close one, and advance to their second straight Big Ten championship game next week against the Ohio State Buckeyes.