After enjoying a week of rest, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish return home on Saint Valentine’s Day for a series against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. With just three weeks left in the regular season, every game is as crucial as ever. Just six points separate the first place Penn State Nittany Lions from the sixth place Michigan Wolverines. Minnesota enters this weekend 8-6-4-3 (31 points) in the Big Ten play, and Notre Dame 7-7-4-3 (28 points).
WHERE, WHEN AND HOW TO WATCH
Where: Compton Family Ice Arena, Notre Dame, IN
When: Fri. February 14, 7:00 PM (Game 1) and Sat. February 15, 6:00 PM (Game 2)
Watch: NBCSN (Game 1) and NBCSN Chicago and Philadelphia+ (Game 2)
The Gophers have salvaged what at one point looked like another disappointing season for a program that was once a consistent participant in the Frozen Four. Coach Bob Motzko’s team comes to South Bend having won five of their last six games, which includes a spit in last weekend’s big series against the Michigan State Spartans. They’ll have their work cut out for them, as this weekend is the first of two consecutive road series.
The Golden Gophers and Golden Domers met back in October in what has the first Big Ten series for both teams. In the opener, the teams skated to a 2-2 tie before Minnesota would eventually win in double overtime. The next afternoon, the Irish won 5-3 at 3M Arena at Mariucci, thanks in part two goals by sophomore defenseman Nick Leivermann, a prospect of the Colorado Avalanche.
It was encouraging to see the Irish kill off all six penalties they were faced with against the nation’s second-best power-play team in Penn State. The week prior, they had surrendered three goals while the Wisconsin Badgers were on the man advantage. Minnesota’s power-play percentage ranks last in the Big Ten at .163
The Irish will look to forward Cal Burke for another big game. The senior forward is riding a four-game point streak. He found the back of the net for the second goal in Notre Dame’s 4-2 victory over first-place Penn State on Saturday. The native of Boxborough, Massachusetts loves playing against Minnesota, as his first multi-goal game came against the Golden Gophers as a sophomore.
The series was very competitive when these teams met back in October. Since then, the Irish stumbled but seemed to have found their groove lately. With the teams now meeting in South Bend, and Notre Dame coming off a bye week, I expect Jeff Jackson’s team to get the sweep before two big weekend series with Michigan and Michigan State.