The Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey is approaching the end of their season, with only three more series left to go in the regular season. This weekend they travel to Madison for two games against the #4 ranked Wisconsin Badgers. Each series has growing importance for Notre Dame as they fight for a chance to make the NCAA tournament.
Where, When, How to Watch
- Where: Kohl Center, Madison, WI
- When: Friday, February 9, 8pm ET (game 1); Saturday, February 10, 7pm ET (game 2)
- How to Watch: Both games streaming on B1G+
Last weekend Notre Dame split their two games against the Michigan State Spartans, the first place team in the Big Ten. Notre Dame played like two different teams in those two games with their offense showing up for four goals in game one while holding Michigan State’s potent offense to only one goal. In the second game though the roles were reversed with Michigan State winning 4-0.
After the split Notre Dame currently sits #21 in the Pairwise rankings which is not good enough to get them into the NCAA Tournament. The Irish are quickly approaching must win territory with only six more regular season games to move up in the rankings. In the Big Ten Notre Dame is currently 4th out of 7 which is good enough to get them home ice in the first round of the tournament. They are only 2 points above 5th place Michigan though while being 2 points behind 3rd place Minnesota. The placement of those three teams in the final standings could determine who moves forward and considering those are Notre Dame’s next two opponents the final games of the season take on extra importance.
If Notre Dame is going to make a run in the final weeks of the season they are going to continue to rely on goaltender Ryan Bischel, one of two Hobey Baker nominees on the Irish team. Bischel has continued his excellent play this season with a .929 SV% and 2.41 GAA. His save percentage is good for 5th in the country but he’s first in the nation with 859 total saves.
One of the few goalies with with a better save percentage though is Wisconsin’s Kyle McClellan with .933%. When these two teams last played a few weeks ago though Notre Dame was one of the few teams that was able to get to McClellan, chasing him from one of the games after 4 goals in just over 30 minutes. Wisconsin still won both game by a combined score of 9-5 but Notre Dame already has recent success of their own to point to for this weekend. On offense Wisconsin is talented, but they don’t have as strong an offense as last week’s opponent Michigan State and are similar in goal scoring rate to Penn State who Notre Dame swept two series ago.
Notre Dame is in must win territory from here on out if they want to make the NCAA Tournament based on rank. Unfortunately for them they face a tough opponent on the road this week. If the Irish can pull off a series split it should be looked at as a success that can push them forward for two very important series coming up.