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Irish aim to climb conference standings against Minnesota

| Friday, February 22, 2019

After splitting a home series against Wisconsin last weekend, the Irish will look to make up more ground in the Big Ten standings as they travel to Minneapolis to take on Minnesota on Friday. The Irish (16-11-3, 9-9-2 Big Ten) will need a strong showing against the Gophers (13-14-4, 10-9-3 Big Ten) in order to try gain more position in the Big Ten standings as the race for the conference tournament heats up.

Ann Curtis | The Observer
Irish senior defenseman Bobby Nardella skates past an opponent during Notre Dame’s 5-2 win over Michigan on Feb. 12 at Compton Family Ice Arena.

Notre Dame currently holds third place in the conference behind both Minnesota and Ohio State, while Michigan sits right at their heels, trailing the Irish by only a single point. Despite the tightness of the standings, the Irish will have their hands full facing a Minnesota team fresh off a sweep against Ohio State. Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson commented on the recent play of the Gophers and how they will test his team.

“They’re not your old Minnesota Gophers the way they play. They’re much more structured defensively,” Jackson said. “They’re still a great transition team and have a lot of offensive depth. They’re really good in their neutral zone and in their defensive zone and that’s what leads to transition for them.”

The Irish will need to focus on better neutral zone play against the Gophers, as well as finding a way past their stellar goaltending in order to find success on the ice. Jackson noted the impact that area of the game played last weekend against Wisconsin, but also during Notre Dame’s last matchup against Minnesota in which the Irish were swept on home ice back in January.

“I thought that Friday night we didn’t manage the puck very well in the neutral zone and they were using the same system that we’re watching on film that they do so well,” Jackson said. “We just have to control the puck through the neutral zone better and [try] to get pucks through.”

As well as having home advantage and seeding implications on the line in this late-season Big Ten matchup, the Irish will also need to focus on NCAA tournament qualifications. Notre Dame sits in 17th in the PairWise rankings for the NCAA tournament and will need to collect wins from here on out in order to earn an at-large bid in the 16-team field.

The Irish will take on the Gophers at 3M Arena at Mariucci at 8 p.m. on Friday and 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.

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