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Notre Dame Hockey: Minnesota Series Preview

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The Irish return home following their best series of the season.

Twitter @NDHockey

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey returns home after a four game road trip for a series with the Minnesota Gophers. The Irish have won their last three games, including a sweep of the Ohio State Buckeyes last weekend, and won both of their previous games against Minnesota this season.

Where, When, and How to Watch

  • Where: Compton Family Ice Arena, Notre Dame, IN
  • When: Friday, February 12, 7:30pm ET (Game 1); Saturday, February 13, 5:30pm ET (Game 2)
  • How to Watch: NBCSN (Game 1) and streaming on NBCSports.com (Games 1 and 2)

Notre Dame’s biggest weakness this season has been their inability to score goals. That weakness turned into a strength last weekend as the Irish offense exploded for 14 goals over two games against Ohio State. Notre Dame seemingly let out an entire season’s worth of frustration on the Buckeyes and came away with two wins, moving them into third place in the Big Ten. The good news is that the big weekend was fueled, at least in part, by several upperclassmen finally finding the back of the net. Matt Steeves (senior), Pierce Crawford (senior), and Cam Burke (junior) all scored their first goals of the season. Meanwhile junior Alex Steeves, who certainly hasn’t struggled this season, picked up 7 points over two games, earning the Big Ten’s Second Star of the Week Honors.

In net Dylan St. Cyr started both games for Notre Dame and he was stellar, stopping 47 shots and only allowing two goals. St. Cyr has started the last 7 games for the Irish, settling into the number 1 spot starting with their sweep of Minnesota in January. He’s posted a .930 SV% and 2.13 GAA over that time. Expect to keep seeing him in net as long as those numbers stay that strong.

Notre Dame was also buoyed by their power play last weekend, scoring 5 times with the man advantage. They were helped by a major penalty and game misconduct early in game 2, scoring 3 times on the 5 minute power play. All together they managed to bring their PP% all the way up to 17.6% on the season, nearly a full 10 percentage points higher than it was a week ago.

Minnesota on the other hand hasn’t quite been the same in the new year. Since returning to play after the holidays they’ve lost 5 games, including two to Notre Dame in January. They’ve fallen out of first place in the Big Ten, one point behind Wisconsin after being swept by the Badgers last weekend. It seems obvious to say, but when Minnesota scores, they win. They are averaging 3.9 goals per game, but in their five losses scored two goals, just once against Notre Dame, while scoring only 1 goals in the other four games. Goaltending and defense is the key to beating this Minnesota team and luckily Notre Dame is hitting their stride there.

Prediction

Given his recent run of form and Minnesota’s struggles in low scoring games Dylan St. Cyr is the most important single player in this series. Stopping Minnesota’s offense is the key to winning, although a goal scoring performance like last weekend from Notre Dame certainly wouldn’t hurt. That being said though, Minnesota is still the 5th ranked team in the country for a reason. Their offense is talented and stopping them is much easier said than done. While the Notre Dame we saw last weekend can score with the Gophers I’m just not sure they can put the offense and goaltending together to sweep. so I expect to see a split this weekend.