The road to Detroit for the 2020 Frozen Four begins this weekend for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, as they embark on their third straight Big Ten Tournament title. After finishing fifth in the conference with 37 points, they will travel to the State of Hockey to face the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The winner of the best of three series will head to the one-game Big Ten semifinal the following Saturday.
WHERE, WHEN, AND HOW TO WATCH
Where: 3M Arena at Mariucci, Minneapolis, MN
When: Friday, Mar. 6, 8:00 PM ET (Game 1), Saturday, Mar. 7, 8:00 PM (Game 2), Sunday, Mar. 8, 7:00 PM ET (Game 3, if necessary)
How to Watch: FS2 (Games 1 and 3) and Fox Sports North Plus (Game 2)
The Golden Gophers finished their season tied with the Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan Wolverines with 38 points, but based on tiebreakers, drew the 4th seed to meet the Irish. The series between Minnesota and Notre Dame should be a competitive one, as the teams split the season series 1-1-2 with each road team picking up a victory. The most recent matchup was a 2-1 victory for Bob Motzko’s Gophers on February 15th, thanks to goals from Ben Meyers and Blake McLaughlin.
The Gophers are averaging 2.79 goals per game, which is third in the Big Ten behind the Penn State Nittany Lions and Wisconsin Badgers. Leading the team in goals is Scott Reedy, a 6’2 200-plus lb. center who was a 2017 fourth round pick of the San Jose Sharks. Reedy has found the back of the net on 15 occasions this season, 2 of which have come against Notre Dame.
When it come to Notre Dame’s success against this weekend’s opponent, two names that stand out are both prospects of the Colorado Avalanche: Cam Morrison and Nick Leivermann. A Minnesota native, Leivermann lit the lamp four times in as many games against the school from his home state, while Morrison had four assists and a goal.
The man between the pipes for the Irish is no stranger to the Big Ten Tournament. In six games, senior netminder Cale Morris is a perfect 6-0 with a .968 save percentage and 1.14 goals against average. Those numbers are good enough to have earned him back to back Most Outstanding Player awards. He has not allowed more than three goals in a game since January 24th.
This will be one of the better series of the weekend, and while Minnesota has shown they have what it takes to beat Notre Dame, I don’t see this crop of seniors exiting on the first weekend of the Big Ten Tournament. I expect Morris to have another big game, and the offense to give him enough to work with to get the two-game sweep.