After a brief delay, Big Ten hockey finally drops the puck this weekend with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish opening their season at home against the Wisconsin Badgers. The Big Ten has scheduled up to winter break and Notre Dame will play five series in that time. They’ll be looking to recapture the Big Ten Championship for the third time in four year by getting off to a fast start against one of their top contenders.
Where, When, and How to Watch
Where: Compton Family Ice Arena, Notre Dame, IN
When: Friday, Nov. 13, 7:00pm ET (Game 1), and Saturday, Nov. 14, 7:00pm ET (Game 2)
How to Watch: NBCSN and streaming on the NBC Sports APP (Game 1), Streaming on the NBC Sports APP (Game 2)
Notre Dame has two big questions heading into this season. The first of course is goaltending. Three year starter and former Mike Richter Award winner Cale Morris ended his college career at the end of last season and joined the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League. Sophomore Ryan Bischel and senior Dylan St. Cyr have both filled in admirably in limited duties over the past two years, but neither has a ton of experience in a college net and how exactly playing time will be split between the two is yet to be determined. Notre Dame has long been a defensive minded team under head coach Jeff Jackson and while the defense will presumably be as strong as ever, how the goaltenders play will go a long way to determining how far Notre Dame goes this year.
The second question for the Irish is where do the goals come from. Scoring was Notre Dame’s biggest weakness last year and they’ll need to improve there to recapture the conference crown and hopefully more. Last season’s top scorer, junior Alex Steeves, is returning, but 2-4 on the top scorers list from last season have all moved on. Notre Dame certainly has the talent, but they’ll need to prove it this year. We’ve seen flashes from players like Michael Graham, Jake Pivonka, and Graham Slaggert, but they’re upperclassmen now and we’ll need to take on a larger role. Sophomore Trevor Janicke will look to improve on a strong freshman season and Notre Dame welcomes some talented freshman looking to prove themselves with bloodlines to get excited about in Ryder Rolston, Landon Slaggert, and Brady Bjork.
Wisconsin is a team that is consistently loaded with talent, but has struggled to translate that into success recently. They’ve lost a few very good players to the NHL since last season ended, but they also return some very talented players. One thing that is certain is that the Badgers can score goals. They were second in the conference in goals scored last season and return sophomore Cole Caufield, the conference’s leading score a year ago and a first round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. He’s joined by fellow sophomore and 2020 first round pick Dylan Holloway up front to form one of the most formidable and talented tandems in college hockey. Notre Dame’s new goalies certainly didn’t draw an easy matchup to start the season.
The truth here is that both teams have some significant questions heading into this season and we’re just not sure how they’ll look. Notre Dame will need to keep their defense strong, capitalize on Badger mistakes, and control the special teams play. Wisconsin will be looking to limit chances created by mistakes while overwhelming the Irish on offense and scoring enough to put the game out of reach. I think a split of this series is a likely outcome and one both teams will probably be ok with to open the season.