The Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey team and the Michigan Wolverines will face off in the Big Ten semifinal this weekend in Ann Arbor, MI, with the winner moving on to the Championship game. The two have played four times so far this season, with Notre Dame winning all four, but Michigan is one of the top ranked teams in the country and enter the semifinal as the higher seeded team. Notre Dame currently sits tied for sixth in the PairWise rankings and looks all but set to book a spot in the NCAA Tournament despite what happens the rest of the Big Ten Tournament, but an automatic bid and conference championship would be a great way to move into the NCAAs.
Where, When, How to Watch
- Where: Yost Ice Arena, Ann Arbor, MI
- When: Saturday, March 12, 6:30pm ET
- How to Watch: Big Ten Network
Notre Dame enters the semifinal after making their way past the Wisconsin Badgers last weekend in the quarterfinals, needing all three games to come away with the series win. Matthew Galajda was in net for all three games last weekend, making it now eight straight that he has started for the Irish. He is 7-1 over those eight games and with a .944 save percentage and 1.77 goals against average. Galajda also started two of the four games against Michigan this season, winning both.
Spencer Stastney continues to be a huge part of the Notre Dame offense as well, with 27 points in 20 games since returning from injury January 1. He is now tied for second on the team in points and is third in the Big Ten with 62 shots blocked. Graham Slaggert also had a big weekend against Wisconsin, with five points in three games. He now has 23 points on the season, including 2 points in the 4 games against Michigan.
Notre Dame is the only team to sweep Michigan so far this season, doing it twice, once on the road and once at home. Michigan however is 27-9-1 on the season and last weekend swept the Michigan State Spartans in the Big Ten quarterfinals, scoring 12 goals in the two games. Michigan is the second ranked team in the Big Ten tournament and ranked #4 in the country. Statistically the Irish and Wolverines sit very close to each other in all major categories, and despite Notre Dame’s 4-0 record against Michigan on the season, that close matchup has played out so far, with two games going to overtime and one with a tie broken late in the third period.
Beating a team four out of four times in a single season is not an easy task. Beating them a fifth time is even more difficult and that is exactly what Notre Dame is trying to do this weekend to lock up their place in the Big Ten Final. It won’t be easy though, and this will most likely be a close game with very little separating the two teams. For Notre Dame to come out on top they’re going to need strong goaltending and will need to take advantage of opportunities as they come. Staying out of the penalty box will also be key and if Notre Dame can do those things they have a good chance of moving on.