For the 147th time, two prestigious universities will meet on the ice this week in Ann Arbor, Michigan when the Notre Dame Fighting Irish take on the Michigan Wolverines in the second to last regular season series for both teams. Only four points separate the third-place Wolverines from the sixth-place Irish in the Big Ten standings.
WHERE, WHEN, AND HOW TO WATCH
Where: Yost Ice Arena, Ann Arbor, MI
When: Friday, Feb. 21, 6:00 PM ET (Game 1) and Saturday, Feb. 22, 4:00 PM ET (Game 2)
Watch: Big Ten Network
Winners of four straight, the Wolverines are coming into this weekend’s series on short rest. On Monday evening at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, they completed the sweep of their in-state rival Michigan State Spartans. Goaltender Strauss Mann continued to be outstanding as he has all season for the maize and blue, stopping 31 of 32 shots in front of a raucous, mostly pro-Michigan crowd en route to the Wolverines hoisting the annual Duel in the D trophy.
Michigan native Jeff Jackson and his Notre Dame squad know firsthand how dangerous the sophomore from Greenwich, Connecticut is between the pipes for the Wolverines. When the teams met in South Bend last month, Mann stopped 57 of the 58 shots he saw in consecutive victories. The series is the only time this season the Irish have dropped both games in regulation to a Big Ten opponent.
To prevent the same result this weekend, Notre Dame will have to continue to limit high-danger opportunities when shorthanded. Last week against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, the Irish killed off 7 of 8 penalties. The previous week, they were a perfect 6 for 6 against the Penn State Nittany Lions.
In a weekend that saw them go 0-1-1 against the current leaders of the Big Ten, Notre Dame’s offense was once against lead by defenseman Nick Leivermann. The Colorado Avalanche prospect displayed his offensive ability by finding the back of the net twice for the second series in a row. Colin Theisen also had a goal and an assist against the Gophers, and he’ll look to keep that momentum going this weekend, roughly 30 miles away from his hometown of Monroe, Michigan.
The Wolverines are one of the hottest teams in the country, having lost only once since the calendar turned to 2020. However, the Irish have had two more days to prepare, and have improved on offense since the last time these teams met. I’m predicting a series split this weekend in what will be an exciting pair of games to watch in one of college hockey’s most hostile environments.