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No. 13 Irish take on No. 15/16 Ohio State in Columbus

| Friday, January 14, 2022

After securing five of six conference points on the road at Penn State last weekend, the Notre Dame hockey team will travel to Columbus, Ohio to take on the No. 15/16 Ohio State Buckeyes.

All the Big Ten Conference matchups are paramount, but this one will carry even more weight. The two teams are separated in the standings by only one point, with the Buckeyes (15-6-1, 7-4-1-0-0-1 B1G) tied for second with 23 points and the Irish (15-6-0, 8-4-0-3-1-0 B1G) sitting at fourth with 22 points.

Getting on the scoresheet first has been a key part of success for Notre Dame this season. When the Irish have opened up the scoring in contests, they have put up an impressive 11-1-0 record. The Irish will look to continue this trend against a very solid Ohio State team.

Outside of scoring first, the Irish will also look to lean heavily on their defensive special teams. The Irish have gone 75 for 81 on the season. That gives them a .952 kill percentage, which puts them at second overall in the nation.

Head coach Jeff Jackson gave some insight into what makes his penalty-killing unit so successful.

“We reach out to certain NHL coaches that we have a relationship with or have spoken to in the past, and obviously watching game film from the NHL certainly gives us some ideas as far as some things that are trending in a different direction,” Jackson said. “We’ve come up with things of our own that people have copycatted us, and the same thing applies to us stealing things from other teams — not just NHL teams, but college teams as well. That’s the foundation of the game: It’s just finding ways to improve your team by taking things that work for other teams. That’s pretty common in the game today. That’s why so many teams tend to play the same way.”

The personnel that the Irish have rolled out for the penalty kill have also played a huge role.

“It certainly is an adjustment to our tactics but I think a lot of it has to do with our personnel as well, especially on the back end,” Jackson said. “Having a little bit more grit back there certainly has made a big difference on our penalty kill. Our goaltending has been a factor in that regard as well.”

Additionally, Notre Dame netminders have been a critical factor in the team’s success. Opposing squads have had few answers to the tandem of junior Ryan Bischel and graduate student Matthew Galajda. Galajda has a .926 save percentage, ranking 10th in the NCAA while Bischel boasts a .932 save percentage, which ranks seventh. The duo’s goals allowed averages are also stellar. Bischel sits at seventh with a 1.85 GAA and Galajda sits at eighth with a 1.92 GAA.

While coach Jackson has traditionally stuck to a one-netminder system, he has embraced the outstanding play of both goalies.

“I’m fine with it right now,” Jackson said. “We’ve got two guys that are above 92, 93 save percentage, and that to me is the number one statistic that I evaluate. As long as they both can contribute and be successful then it’s not hard to play them both.”

Jackson said one of the biggest challenges headed into this weekend’s tilt will be contending with Ohio State’s depth.

“They added a lot to their roster. I mean, they lost a fair amount, especially their goaltender, but they brought in another great goaltender as a freshman. And then they have two real impact freshmen up front, along with a few others that are pretty good players too. Then they have a couple of grad transfers that have added to their team,” Jackson said. “They’ve added a number of players that have made a huge impact on their roster, and now they’re one of the hardest teams as far as from a depth perspective to be able to play against. They bring four good lines, they’ve got three good pairs of defensemen and they’re getting the goaltending.”

Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. ET on Friday and 8 p.m. ET on Saturday at the Value Center Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

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