The Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey team, fresh off their sweep of the Michigan Wolverines, return home for their only non-conference series of the season against the Arizona State Sun Devils. The Irish (2-2) come into the series ranked #16/13 whereas the Sun Devils (2-3-1) come in ranked #20 fresh off a sweep of the Wisconsin Badgers for their first two wins of the season.
Where, When, and How to Watch
- Where: Compton Family Ice Arena, Notre Dame, IN
- When: Thursday, Dec. 3, 7:00pm ET (Game 1) and Friday, Dec. 4, 7:00pm ET (Game 2)
- How to Watch: NHL Network and streaming on NBCSports.com (Game 1); NBCSN and streaming on NBCSports.com (Game 2)
Last weekend Notre Dame travelled to Ann Arbor and came away with two wins against one of the top ranked teams in the country. The biggest reason for that sweep was the performance of sophomore goaltender Ryan Bischel. Bischel made 55 saves on 58 shots over the course of the series, earning him Big Ten First Star of the Week Honors. We could expect Bischel’s performance translated to a .948 SV% and his first two road wins of his career. If he can repeat that performance, or even come close, the Irish should expect the wins two pile up quickly.
We also saw some encouraging signs of life from the Notre Dame offense last weekend. Despite having just over half as many shots as Michigan in game 1 (18-34), the Irish still managed to score 3 goals, all at even strength. They also saw the first career goals from captain Nate Clurman and freshman Grant Silianoff. Notre Dame found their shooting stroke in game 2, outshooting the Wolverines 31-24, but it didn’t translate to goals until late in the 3rd period, scoring twice in the final 2:14 of the game, including an empty net goal. The ideal situation lies somewhere between those two games (more shots on goal generally means more scoring chances), four of the five goals on the weekend were scored at even strength. In fact, Notre Dame only had two chances on the power play, and drawing more penalties will lead to more goals as well.
One name to watch for Notre Dame this series will be freshman Landon Slaggert. Slaggert picked up his first career point, an assist, last weekend. He was then named to the USA hockey roster for the upcoming camp prior to the 2021 World Junior Championship. While his performance in the camp will ultimately decide if Slaggert earns a place on the final roster a strong showing for the Irish in the lead up to the camp and tournament can only help his chances. Camp begins Dec. 6, the final roster is scheduled to be announced Dec. 13, and the tournament will run from Dec. 25, 2020-Jan. 5, 2021.
This is only the second meeting between Notre Dame and Arizona State all time, the first taking place on the opening weekend of the 2016-17 season, the first for the Sun Devils as a full time Division I program. A lot has changed since then, including Arizona State earning their first NCAA Tournament appearance in the 2018-19 season. The Sun Devils come into the series statistically similar to Notre Dame in both SH% and SV%, although they’ve played two more games, but they are also coming off their best series of the season following a sweep of Wisconsin. The Sun Devils’ offense exploded last weekend, scoring 8 goals in two games after having only 4 goals in their first four games. Arizona State has been splitting goaltending duties, having given up 20 goals in six games for a GAA of 3.31, and that may very well be what Notre Dame needs to try to take advantage of.
I certainly don’t expect Arizona State to repeat their offensive performance from last weekend, few teams could, but the Sun Devil offense isn’t a weak point either. I do think Notre Dame is on the verge of their own offensive breakout though and they may be able to take advantage of Arizona State’s goaltending where, if Bischel can come close to what he did last weekend, Notre Dame has the clear advantage. I’m just not sure that performance is sustainable yet, at least not over another full series. A sweep here for Notre Dame should be the goal, and it is definitely possible, but I think a series split is the more likely outcome.