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Notre Dame Hockey: Michigan Series Preview

The Irish and Wolverines face off for two games in South Bend

X @NDHockey

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey team started conference play strong, but has sputtered recently losing their last two games. Still they enter this weekend with a 7-5-2 overall record and 3-1-2 conference record. The Michigan Wolverines on the other hand have struggled early in conference play with a 2-4-2 record and will be looking to right the ship.

Where, When, How to Watch

  • Where: Compton Family Ice Arena, Notre Dame, IN
  • When: Friday, December 1, 7:30pm ET and Saturday, December 2, 6:00pm ET
  • How to Watch: Streaming on Peacock

Notre Dame was last in action a week ago against the Boston College Eagles. That game didn’t go well, ending 6-1 to Boston College. Prior to that though Notre Dame had won 4 of their last 6 games, all in conference play.

So far this season Notre Dame has scored and allowed goals at a very similar rate, with 37 for and 36 against. Their taking slightly fewer shots than they allow but all of that equates to the Irish playing in a lot of close games. Ryan Bischel continues to play a big part in winning close games and now leads the country with 3 shutouts on the season.

If Bischel is keeping the puck out of the net though it means Notre Dame isn’t scoring and that has been their biggest weakness so far this season. Landon Slaggert is among the national leaders in goals this season with 10, but Drew Bavaro, a defenseman, is second on the team with only 4. The silver lining is that there are several freshmen among the team leaders as well and if they can continue to grow into their roles on the team the goals should follow. Danny Nelson is second on the team with 12 points (2 goals, 10 assists) followed by Brennan Ali (5th, 2 goals, 5 assists), Maddox Fleming (6th, 1 goal, 6 assists), and Patrick Moynihan (7th, 3 goals, 3 assists). If some of those players can continue to contribute the offense should catch up to the defense in no time.

Michigan has been somewhat unlucky this year, going 1-3 in one goal games. That contributes to their poor conference start but doesn’t explain it all, especially since they have a 7-6-3 record overall. The Wolverines have struggled killing penalties with only a 73.4% kill rate. In a conference as deep and talented as the Big Ten teams take advantage of that and Notre Dame should be no different, despite having a power play that is middle of the pack. Michigan is also outscoring opponents by a large margin in the first and second period but is being outscored in the third. They have lost 4 games when scoring first meaning close games are not out of reach late. The key for Notre Dame will be keeping the games close (or being ahead late).

These two teams have historically been very closely matched as well, with Michigan holding an all time series lead 84-71-6 but Notre Dame leading in South Bend 32-31-2. Last season the Irish won 3 of 4 but all three of those wins were in overtime.

Prediction

The formula for Notre Dame this weekend is easy to follow but not easy to accomplish. Take advantage of a weak penalty kill and use strong goaltending and defense to keep the game close (or have the lead) late in the game. From there Michigan is giving up more goals than other times. Notre Dame has a chance to take both games this weekend but they’ll be close scores and may need to be comeback wins.