Coming off a sweep of the Michigan State Spartans, the no. 8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish take on MSU’s cross-state rival to finish out the regular season, as they welcome the no. 2 Michigan Wolverines to Compton Family Ice Arena. The Irish currently sit five points behind the no. 12 Ohio State Buckeyes for third in the Big Ten, going into the final weekend before the Big Ten Tournament.
Where, When, How to Watch
- Where: Compton Family Ice Arena, Notre Dame, IN
- When: Friday, February, 25, 7:30 PM ET (Game 1); Saturday, February 26, 6:00 PM ET (Game 2)
- How to Watch: Streaming on Peacock (Games 1 and 2)
Notre Dame’s sweep of Michigan State last weekend was a huge step forward in their hopes of making a sixth straight NCAA Tournament. They’re riding a five-game win streak to the number eleven spot in the Pairwise rankings. Even one win this weekend would go a long way, as Michigan currently holds the top spot.
The Wolverines come into the series having won seven straight and not having lost in regulation since December 11th. Making this more impressive is the fact that they play in a conference with four teams in the top fifteen. However, the Irish handed the Wolverines their only sweep of the season, with two games that each went into overtime in Ann Arbor this past November.
In that series, Ryan Bischel started both games between the pipes for Jeff Jackson’s squad. Despite seeing 71 shots from the Wolverines, the junior goaltender allowed only 6 goals. That percentage is great no matter the opponent, but it’s even more impressive when it’s against an offense that’s one of only three in nation averaging more than 4 goals per game.
For the Irish to continue their success against the maize and blue this time around, they’ll need the same type of play from their defense and goaltending. The Wolverines feature an unprecedented four of the top five picks in the 2021 NHL Draft: defensemen Owen Power (first overall, Buffalo Sabres) and Luke Hughes (fourth, New Jersey Devils), and centers Matty Beniers (second, Seattle Kraken) and Kent Johnson (fifth, Columbus Blue Jackets). Hughes has far and away the most goals by any blue liner in the nation.
A major key to Notre Dame’s success this season has been their penalty kill. The Irish are killing penalties at 91.5%, which is third best in the nation. It’ll be the irresistible force meeting the immovable object when they’re on the ice this weekend, as the Michigan power-play have a 28.6% success rate, which is the second best in the nation. All eyes will be on which team can overcome the other’s special team strength.
It’s hard to go against a team that hasn’t lost a game in regulation in over two months. It’s even harder to go against a team that features four of the top 5 NHL Draft picks. However, the Irish know better than any team in the nation what it takes to beat the Wolverines. There will also be added incentive for them to close out the regular season, for their seniors, in front of their home fans on a high note. In the final series before the Big Ten Tournament, I’m predicting the Irish to complete the season sweep of Michigan.