The Notre Dame Fighting Irish had the weekend off last week which gives them a little bit of a breather for the final run of the regular season. The Irish have been playing better, and their last series against the Penn State Nittany Lions in Happy Valley saw them add 5 points to their conference total.
With this program, however, the standard isn’t a nice series away from home — it’s making runs at Big Ten Championships with the Frozen Four (which is in Detroit this year) on their mind. This has been a below standard type of year, but both of those goals are still possible even now.
The Irish have a problem with the Pairwise rankings. Currently, Notre Dame is ranked #23.
To get an at large bid to the NCAA Tournament, a team needs to be ranked inside the top 16 of the Pairwise rankings. With upsets and auto-bids, a program really needs to be inside the top 10 to be safe.
Barring a whole lot of crazy this month, Notre Dame is going to have to win its 3rd Big 10 Championship in a row to make the tourney. The Irish made a huge push in the Big 10 rankings with the Penn State series, and were only one point behind PSU. The weekend off put Notre Dame back 5 points.
A few notes:
- Penn State and Ohio State have played 2 more games than the Irish.
- Both Michigan State and Minnesota have played the same number of games, but they are also on the remaining schedule for the Irish.
- Notre Dame’s only road trip is to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan next weekend.
So, there is still hope for the Irish that they win the regular season to claim the #1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. That would mean the Irish would automatically be in the semi-finals and play the lowest remaining seed inside Compton Family Ice Arena.
The Irish weren’t the #1 seed last year and still won the championship — so this isn’t a “do or die” thing, but it definitely helps. If you’re unfamiliar with how the Big 10 Tournament works, here you go:
The seventh Big Ten Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament will take place beginning March 6-8 with three best-of-three quarterfinal series played on the campus of the higher seed. The single-elimination semifinal games will be played March 14 at the two highest-remaining seeds, with the Big Ten Tournament Championship Game slated for March 21, also at the highest-remaining seed.
It’s going to be a big month for Notre Dame Hockey, so pay attention! Like I already said, the Irish are going to need a Big 10 title to get in the NCAA tourney, so they might as well win the whole damn thing.