The #14 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey team, coming off a series split last weekend against the RIT Tigers, opens Big Ten conference play this weekend with a series against the #7 ranked Minnesota Gophers. The Gophers enter the series with a 3-3 record overall, but are only 1-3 in their last four games including being swept last weekend against in-state rival Minnesota-Duluth.
Where, When, How to Watch
- Where: 3M Arena at Mariucci, Minneapolis, MN
- When: Friday, October 29, 9:00pm ET (Game 1); Saturday, October 30, 6pm ET (Game 2)
- How to Watch: Big Ten Network and streaming on BTN+ (Game 1); Bally Sports North and streaming on BTN+ (Game 2)
Notre Dame enters this weekend coming off another strong showing against RIT, despite the split results. Notre Dame managed to net eight goals last weekend over two games, bringing up their average to 3.93 goals per game, good for eighth in the country. The Irish offense is led by Max Ellis and Trevor Janicke, who each scored twice last weekend and have seven and six points on the season respectively. They also continue to get contributions throughout the lineup, with nine goal scorers and 17 point scorers so far this season.
The Irish defense also continued its strong start last weekend, and is now holding opponents to only 1.57 goals per game. The penalty kill also improved to a perfect 23-for-23 and is one of only three teams in the country that has not yet given up a goal down a man. In net Matthew Galajda made 22 saves in game 2 for his 20th career shutout and first with Notre Dame. He improved to 3-0 on the season, earned Big Ten Hockey’s Third Star of the Week honors, and now holds a 1.33 GAA and .943 SV%. Ryan Bischel had a tough start in game 1 last weekend, allowing two goals early in the first period, but he tightened up and kept the Tigers off the board to allow Notre Dame to get back in the game and force overtime, where unfortunately he gave up a third goal for the loss.
Minnesota on the other hand limps into the series 1-3 over their last four games. This will be their third straight series against highly ranked opponents after matchups with in-state rivals, #1 St. Cloud State and #4 Minnesota-Duluth. The Gophers are led once again in net by 2021 Mike Richter Award winner and Hobey Baker finalist Jack LaFontaine. The grad student has been one of the best goalies in the country for years, but has struggled early so far this season with a 3.22 GAA and .867 SV%. Minnesota is outscoring opponents so far, despite their record, and still scoring with a 10.8 SH%. They are also driving the shot shares with a 59.1 CF%. This is a strong team with a struggling goaltender who you would expect to eventually get back to his best.
Notre Dame’s depth on offense has been a strength so far this season and as long as they can keep that up they can beat any team in the country. That is probably the key to this weekend, being able to keep up that scoring against a good, but struggling, goaltender in LaFontaine. If he plays to his normal abilities though, that task becomes much harder. The penalty kill will also be an advantage as long as it keeps shutting down opponents, even if it doesn’t stay perfect. This is still a road series against a highly ranked conference opponent though, and it feels like a split is the most likely outcome. That would still be a good start to Notre Dame’s conference schedule.