Notre Dame prepares for Ohio State matchup, chance to clinch Big Ten
Jack Concannon | Thursday, February 8, 2018
This weekend the No. 1 ranked Irish will host the No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes with an eye on clinching the Big Ten regular-season title in their first year in the league.
The Irish can clinch the league title with two wins this weekend and be assured of the No. 1 seed going into the conference tournament. Irish head coach Jeff Jackson acknowledged that this weekend’s game is a critical one for the program.
“We haven’t won a conference championship on the ice at Compton before,” he said.“The guys on the team are reading about how big this is. It’s no different than the winning streak. I don’t have to talk about it. The internet tells them everything they need to know. I don’t want to make it bigger than it needs to be. Every game from here on out is like a playoff game for every team we play. Everyone’s jockeying for position.”
Back in November, the Irish travelled to Columbus and pulled off a road sweep of the Buckeyes, solidifying themselves at the top of the Big Ten and extending their win streak to three games (it would later finish at 16).
Today, the Irish are still on top, but the Buckeyes have bounced back from being swept on home ice, putting together an impressive season to date — the Buckeyes are ranked sixth in the country and sit second in the Big Ten.
Jackson said he believes a lot has changed between the first matchup and now.
“They’re a very similar team to us on paper,” he said.“They have similar numbers on the penalty kill and in goals against. They’re disciplined, they’re well coached. They have some big time players and up front and in the back too.”
Notre Dame owes much of its success to date to the skill of its net-minder, sophomore Cale Morris.
Morris has dominated Big Ten competition as of late, coming off a 2-2 tie at Penn State in which he made 55 saves with five saves in overtime including some prime chances.
For some teams, giving up this many shots would almost certainly guarantee defeat, but the Irish have thrived this season even in games where they’re conceding high numbers of shots.
Morris said he likes playing in games where he’s being asked to make big saves.
“Once you get a few shots on you’re into the flow of the game,” he said.“You don’t have to sit there and think about the last shot or the next shot. It allows you to just play the game and have fun with it, without spending long periods of standing there and letting yourself wander.”
Jackson has been extremely impressed with the young goaltender this season, even saying that he deserves Hobey Baker Award (the equivalent of college football’s Heisman Trophy) consideration.
“Cale’s had a phenomenal year for us, he’s a certainly been a big part of why we are where we are,” Jackson said. “It’s great for him and it’s great for our program that he’s had the kind of year he’s had. He’s caught everybody in the country by surprise. At the beginning of the year nobody even knew who he was. There’s not much more he can do to surprise me.”
The Irish will take on the Buckeyes at Compton Ice Arena at 7:35 on Friday night and 7:05 on Saturday night.