The Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey team returns to Big Ten conference play this weekend with their first home conference series of the season, welcoming the Wisconsin Badgers to South Bend. Notre Dame enters the series ranked #15 in the country and coming off a sweep of the Holy Cross Crusaders. They currently hold a 6-3 record but after a rough weekend in Minnesota two weeks ago are 0-2 in conference play. They’ll be looking to get their first conference wins against a Wisconsin team that sits at 4-6 on the year but are only 1-3 on the road so far.
Where, When, How to Watch
- Where: Compton Family Ice Arena, Notre Dame, IN
- When: Friday, November 12, 7:30pm ET (Game 1); Saturday, November 13, 6pm ET (Game 2)
- How to Watch: NBCSN and streaming on the NBC app (Game 1 & 2)
Notre Dame continues to be strong on both ends of the ice, thanks to a balanced offense and solid special teams and goaltending. They come into play this weekend averaging 3.52 goals per game. They’ve achieved this with 18 different point scorers on the season and 13 different goal scorers. Despite having 90 points on the season so far as a team, Notre Dame’s leading scorer so far is Max Ellis with just 11 points. All of the scoring also comes without much power play success, as Notre Dame is just 3-33 with the man advantage, a success rate of only 9.1%. The Irish scoring rate is good for 13th in the country with definite improvement possible.
At the other end of the ice Notre Dame has been just as strong. The Irish are currently holding opponents to only 1.98 goals per game, which is good for 11th in the country. Their power play finally gave up the first goal of the season shorthanded, but they are still killing penalties at a rate of 97.1%. Goaltender Matthew Galajda has also been a bright spot for Notre Dame and he should be expected to continue to get the majority of the time in net. After stopping 45 of 48 shots faced last weekend against Holy Cross, Galajda holds a .938 save percentage and 1.50 goals against average. Notre Dame is also limiting opponents shot attempts and controlling the shot share, something they haven’t done in recent years. They currently have a CF% of 54 at even strength (meaning they take 54% of total shots at five-on-five) and that jumps up to 57.7% in close games (close defined as within 2 goals in the 1st or 2nd period and tied in the 3rd period).
Wisconsin, meanwhile, seems to be struggling just as much as Notre Dame on the power play, converting on only 9.7% of their opportunities. This is a good sign for a Notre Dame penalty kill that has been nearly perfect. The Badgers are only killing 63% of their penalties though, and that number creates a huge opportunity for the Irish to get their power play going. Wisconsin is scoring only 1.9 goals per game while allowing 3.2, giving Notre Dame a clear path to victory. The Badgers are also not taking as many shots as their allowing, with only a 48.9 CF% that falls to 48.6% in close games. The Badgers have lost a lot of talent to the NHL the past few years, and it has shown against some talented teams early in the year.
Notre Dame certainly comes into the weekend with the statistical advantage. They’ve gotten strong goaltending that should keep them in most games and their offense has shown that they can score with anybody in the country so far. The big advantage this weekend though is special teams, where Notre Dame has the second best penalty kill in the country going up against a struggling power play. I expect Notre Dame’s dominance in that area to continue and, in tandem with their positive goal differential, they should be able to win both games because of it.