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Notre Dame Hockey: Western Michigan Preview

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Former CCHA rivals drop the puck for 2020 in a home and home series

Twitter | @NDHockey

For the first time in nearly a month, the no. 15 Notre Dame Fighting Irish will take the ice as they return from the semester break with a home and home series against the no. 19 Western Michigan Broncos. The series will be the final non-conference matchup of the season for the Irish.

WHERE, WHEN, AND HOW TO WATCH

Where: Compton Family Ice Arena, Notre Dame, IN (Game 1) and Lawson Ice Arena, Kalamazoo, MI (Game 2)

When: Friday, Jan. 3, 7:00 PM ET (Game 1) and Sunday, Jan. 5, 5:00 PM (Game 2)

Watch: NBCSN and NBC Sports Streaming (Game 1) and NCHC.tv (Game 2)

After not having won in regulation in over a month, Notre Dame ended the first half of the season on a positive note, when Cale Morris stopped all 37 shots he saw against the outstanding offense of the Penn State Nittany Lions. On the offensive side of the things, the Irish got a goal each from Graham Slaggert, Max Ellis, and Alex Steeves. While carrying the momentum from a game played on December 14th may be tough, it was encouraging to see the team play well at a point where the season began to look like a lost cause.

The Irish will be without sophomores Jake Pivonka and Spencer Stastney this weekend as they will be with Team USA at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in the Czech Republic. So far, Pivonka has an assist while centering his line, and Stastney has played stellar defense for the Americans.

Seeking their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2017, the Broncos will be returning from an even longer break. Their last series took place in the first weekend of December, when they were swept by top-ranked team in the nation, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks. In the second game of the series, the Broncos were embarrassed on home ice by a score of 8-2.

This weekend’s home and home matchup is one of two teams who are almost mirror images of each other. So far this season, the Broncos are averaging 2.88 goals per game, while the Irish are averaging 2.83 goals per game. They’re similar on the other side of the ice as well. The Notre Dame defense has been allowing 2.94 goals per game, while their opponent and former CCHA rival is allowing an even 3 goals per game.

Prediction

The Irish are Broncos have not met since 2016, so despite the close proximity between the schools, they are not familiar with each other. Notre Dame’s play prior to the break was concerning, but one has to believe an experienced and talented team with Jeff Jackson at the helm will come out in the second half of the season and play to their true potential. The home and home will play a factor this weekend, as I expect a split with each team getting a home victory.