The Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey team takes things on the road this weekend, heading to Minneapolis for a series with the Minnesota Gophers. Notre Dame enters ranked #12 while they face a Minnesota team ranked #3 in the country.
Where, When, How to Watch
- Where: 3M Arena at Mariucci, Minneapolis, MN
- When: Friday, November 4, 8pm ET (Game 1); Saturday, November 5, 8pm ET (Game 2)
- How to Watch: Streaming on Big Ten Plus (Games 1 and 2)
Notre Dame faces possibly their toughest test of the early season this weekend. Not only do they travel for their first true road series of the year, with an 0-2-1 record on the road, but they visit a Minnesota Gophers team that is playing excellent hockey and ranked third in the country.
The Irish have been steadily improving with each series this season though, and despite the 1-0-1 finish last weekend may have been their best performance yet. Ryan Bischel was superb in net, allowing only one goal over two games and saving 71 of 72 shots, good for a .986 SV% on the weekend bringing him up to .934 on the year. He also earned Big Ten Third Star of the Week honors for his performance and repeating that would go a long way to winning this weekend.
On offense, Notre Dame has done an excellent job of spreading the wealth. Last weekend five different players scored Notre Dame’s six goals and 14 different Irish players now have goals on the season. Ryder Rolston leads the way with 4 goals, which isn’t much through eight games, but because they’ve spread things so well Notre Dame still has a respectable 23 goals on the year and 2.9 goals per game. That can, and should, improve as the season moves on but for now it is getting the job done and will continue to do so as long as Bischel plays to a high level in net.
One area where Notre Dame can improve is on the power play, where they are converting only 17.2% of their chances. The good news here is that Minnesota struggles on the penalty kill with a 72% kill rate. Something will have to give and somebody will improve on special teams this weekend and if they get the chances there’s a good chance it’ll be the Irish.
What gives Notre Dame hope of improving this weekend is that Minnesota has struggled in net so far this season. They hold a team SV% of only .881 and their starter, senior Justen Close, sits at only .900. What Minnesota has been good at doing is suppressing opponents and controlling the shot share, which has masked some of their shortcomings in net. The Gophers have a CF% of 58.3, meaning they take 58.3% of the shots in the games they play. Notre Dame sits below 50 at 48.7%. The Irish are giving up more scoring chances than they are taking and without great goaltending that is not a winning formula over the course of a full season. They’ll have to take chances often if they want to win this weekend.
Despite not being perfect, Minnesota is still a very good team. They are ranked third in the country and hold a 5-3 record for a reason, but maybe most importantly for this weekend they are 4-1 so far this season at home. That isn’t a good sign for a Notre Dame team that has struggled on the road, but in some ways this is a good matchup for Notre Dame as the Gophers deficiencies play to their strengths. I can’t see Notre Dame winning both games, but if they can get pucks on net they can come away with a split, which would be a good result. They’ll have to be on top of their game to avoid getting swept though and the inconsistencies that they’ve shown from one game to the next so far this season will need to be corrected.