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Concannon: Irish win streak a remarkable accomplishment

| Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The No. 1 Irish men’s hockey team suffered a spectacular loss on Sunday. By most measures, it was an extremely normal hockey loss. Notre Dame (19-4-1) struggled on the penalty kill, were largely stagnant on the power play and faced a hot goaltender In Wisconsin’s Jack Berry, who came up with a 40-save shutout.

What made this loss extraordinary wasn’t the loss itself, but the months of wins that preceded it.

The loss was the squad’s first in 87 days. It was their first in 16 games. It was their first Big Ten loss. Whatever your favorite way to measure success is, the Irish run was incredible.

Ann Curits | The Observer
Senior forward Mario Lucia skates up the ice in a Nov. 11 game against Penn State.

They’re now 13-1-0 in the Big Ten. No other Big Ten team has more than eight conference wins. The Irish have given up 22 goals in Big Ten play. No other team has given up less than 36. This streak was something to behold, and the stats speak to that to an incredible extent.

A few more stats for you: If the Irish were to just stop showing up for their games for the rest of the Big Ten hockey season, the lowest they could finish in the conference is third, despite the fact that the Irish have 10 games remaining and well over a month before the Big Ten tournament begins. The 5-0 loss to the Badgers marked the first time since Nov. 10 the Irish had surrendered more than two goals in a game.

Okay that’s enough stats. But I could keep going.

Some people have tried to claim that Notre Dame’s move to the upstart Big Ten conference from the more traditional powerhouse Hockey East is the reason for this newfound success. This idea is absurd.

Six of the seven teams in the Big Ten are ranked in the top 20 in the country. The Hockey East has two ranked teams. Northeastern is its highest ranked team at No. 8, and the Big Ten has two teams ranked above Northeastern: the No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes and the Irish. During the 16-game streak just three Notre Dame wins came against teams not currently in the top 20. The Irish had this win streak in spite of the strength of its conference, not because of it.

Sophomore goaltender Cale Morris has been instrumental during to team’s streak. This season he has a 1.67 goals against average to go along with a 95.1 percent save percentage to go along with an 18-2-0 record. His win percentage and save percentage both lead the NCAA, and his goals against average places him third in the league, all in his first season as the starter. Notre Dame’s defense was strong throughout the streak, but it helps when teams score less than two goals, on average, for every 40 shots the Irish defense surrenders.

The Irish will look to begin a new streak going on the road against Minnesota on Friday and Saturday.

While many teams in college hockey are often content to just split on the road, the Irish will look for, if not expect, two victories, as they are 8-0 in Big Ten road games this year, picking up road sweeps against quality teams like Wisconsin and Ohio State.

I wouldn’t bet against the Irish to start up another win streak this weekend against the Golden Gophers.

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