After going 0-1-1 in Columbus against the Ohio State Buckeyes last week, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will return home to close out their regular season series with the Wisconsin Badgers, whom they split a series with in Madison back in November. The Badgers, who currently occupy the basement of the Big Ten standings, split their series with the Michigan State Spartans last weekend.
WHERE, WHEN, AND HOW TO WATCH
Where: Compton Family Ice Arena, Notre Dame, IN
When: Friday, Jan. 24, 7:00 PM ET (Game 1) and Saturday, Jan. 25, 6:00 PM (Game 2)
Watch: NBC Sports Chicago+/Philadelphia+
While this season hasn’t gone as well as many had hoped for the Fighting Irish, there was reason for excitement last week when senior goaltender Cale Morris was once again selected to Phase One of the Hobey Baker Memorial Award fan voting ballot. The 2018 Mike Richter Award winner is an alternate captain, and through 20 games has a .913 save percentage and 2.57 goals against. He’s also the reigning back to back Big Ten Tournament Most Outstanding Player.
No player on the ice for the Irish this weekend has found the back of the net against Wisconsin as much as sophomore forward Michael Graham. In four games against the Badgers, he has six goals and an assist. Graham’s last goal this season came against Michigan State on November 22nd, so this weekend will be the perfect opportunity to have a breakout game.
Wisconsin’s victory over the Irish earlier in the season was thanks in large part to the stellar play of goaltender Daniel Lebedeff. The sophomore from Finland stopped all 22 shots he saw against a Notre Dame squad that at the time was undefeated. The victory was his lone shutout of the season, and through 18 games, he has a .898 save percentage and 3.22 goals against.
Leading the Badgers with 13 goals in 22 games is Montreal Canadiens draft pick, Cole Caufield. The sniper from Stevens Point, Wisconsin had plenty of hype leading up to last summer’s NHL Draft, with many predicting he would go higher than where the Habs got him, at fifteenth. He and the rest of the Wisconsin offense are averaging 3 goals per game, which is second only to the Penn State Nittany Lions among Big Ten teams.
The Fighting Irish still have yet to get out of their slump that really began around when these teams last played each other. Notre Dame entered that November series 7-0-1. Since then, they’ve gone 3-10-3 and have yet to win consecutive games. This weekend, facing that same Wisconsin team at home, is when that changes. I predict the Irish finally get another series sweep, at home, against the last-place team in the Big Ten.