The Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey team returns home this weekend, welcoming the #2 ranked Minnesota Gophers to South Bend for a Big Ten conference series. Notre Dame is fresh off another series split last weekend away at the Wisconsin Badgers and it gets no easier now with one of the top teams in the country coming to visit.
Where, When, How to Watch
- Where: Compton Family Ice Arena, Notre Dame, IN
- When: Friday, January 13, 7:05pm ET (Game 1); Saturday, January 14, 6:05pm ET (Game 2)
- How to Watch: Streaming on Peacock (Games 1 and 2)
The story of Notre Dame’s season has quickly become this, series splits where they look like two different teams in each. Game one sees the Irish offense stymied either by good defense and shot blocking, excellent goaltending, few chances, or all of the above. Ryan Bischel usually does enough in net to keep these games close but the offense can’t take advantage. Game two the script is flipped. The Irish offense erupts for a big game with their backs against the wall and takes home a series split. This has happened 6 straight series now including last weekend when Notre Dame lost 2-0 before winning 6-4.
The ability is there for the Irish, it is the consistency that has been lacking. Last weekend saw the Irish score a single game season high six goals from four different players. There were also three players with three points in game two. This was all with their three most talented players, Ryder Rolston, Landon Slaggert, and Nick Leivermann combining for a grand total of one point, an assist from Rolston. Trevor Janicke has stepped up with three points last week (2 goals and 1 assist) and is now tied with Rolston for the team lead in goals (6), assists (9), and points (15).
The consistency for Notre Dame has come in net, with Ryan Bischel being far and away the team MVP this season. Bischel leads the country with four shutouts this season, including being the first goalie with a shutout in the 2023 calendar year on January 1. He is second in the country with 672 saves on the season. That includes a career high 47 in one game against Penn State earlier in the year. This week Bischel was recognized for his excellent performance, being named to the Mike Richter Award watchlist, given to the best college goalie each season.
If Notre Dame’s own play has been worrying at times this season then seeing Minnesota on the visiting bench this weekend should be even more so. The Gophers are currently ranked #2 in the country and sit atop the Big Ten standings with 30 points (second place Penn State has 22). Several of the Gophers have played a lot of hockey though, with four players recently winning bronze with team USA at the World Junior Championship. Whether that extra hockey means fatigue or freshness we’ll soon find out.
The last time Notre Dame didn’t split a series was all the way back in the first week of November, when they were swept while visiting Minnesota. They were outscored that weekend 7-1. Home ice should help level the playing field a bit, but based on the way these two teams are performing, Notre Dame comes into this series with the odds stacked against them. I can’t see the Irish getting a sweep and think they may very well be lucky to come away with a split. If they continue on the streak they’ve been it’ll be a good weekend.