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Hockey

Staff Predictions: Notre Dame vs. Minnesota

, and | Friday, January 28, 2022

No. 11 Notre Dame will play host to the No.10 Minnesota Golden Gophers this weekend in a series that holds large implications for the Big Ten standings and possibly NCAA tournament chances down the road. This series has been highly competitive as of late, with 16 of the last 24 meetings decided by one goal or ending in a tie. This weekend’s series figures to be a great Big Ten hockey series as well in front of a wild crowd at Compton Family Ice Arena. Our hockey beat writers gave their predictions for the series below.

Nate Moller — Sports writer

This is a pivotal series for the Irish, who currently sit fourth in the Big Ten standings, only three points behind the Golden Gophers. The Golden Gophers are the only team that has swept the Irish this season. That was way back in October though, and both teams have changed significantly since then. The Golden Gophers’ speed will surely be a problem for the Irish again this weekend, but goaltenders Ryan Bischel and Matthew Galajda have been playing very well for the Irish as of late.

The Golden Gophers no longer have sensational goaltender Jack LaFontaine either, who has thwarted the Irish many times on previous occasions. This could be significant. The Irish have been fantastic on the power play as of late as well, and they will look to continue their success against a talented Golden Gopher defense. All in all, this should be a fun, competitive Big Ten series to watch, and I anticipate the Irish and Golden Gophers splitting this series.

Game 1: Notre Dame 2, Minnesota 3
Game 2: Notre Dame 4, Minnesota 2

Tom Zwiller — Sports writer

The importance of this series cannot be understated. Michigan and Ohio State are tied for first in the Big Ten with 33 points. Minnesota sits in third with 27 points, and Notre Dame in fourth with 24 points.
Notre Dame only has 10 games left in the regular season, and this is their last series against Minnesota. Should Notre Dame win, it is reasonable to assume they can finish in third instead of fourth. If that happens, Notre Dame will play Penn State instead of Wisconsin (There is something to be said about wanting to play Wisconsin as PSU is ranked 24th by CHNs Pairwise rankings while the Badgers rank 38th).

Earlier in the season, Notre Dame lost to Minnesota in a sweep; however, this time around should be slightly different. Notre Dame ranks 12th in Faceoff win% (.526), whereas Minnesota ranks 18th (.512). Notre Dame leads the country in penalty kill % at .925. Minnesota is less efficient at killing penalties, ranking 11th at .836. A similar story exists with power plays: Notre Dame ranks 20th at .205 converted, whereas Minnesota ranks 30th at .192. On top of that, Notre Dame ranks top-10 in both its scoring offense and scoring defense. Minnesota is roughly in the top-20 in both categories.

Game 1: Notre Dame 4, Minnesota 3
Game 2: Notre Dame 3, Minnesota 2

Andrew McGuinness — Sports writer

An obvious difference between this series and the first one between these teams is that they will be playing in South Bend this time. Notre Dame’s performance at home is night and day compared to last year; the Irish have already doubled last season’s home win total in three fewer games. “It’s always great when you have your band and students, we missed that,” head coach Jeff Jackson said. “They make that building come alive. The size of the student section we had on Wednesday night against Boston College was outstanding. It made a huge difference in that game for us.”

The Irish have won at least once in every home series this season; even a strong Minnesota team will be hard-pressed to buck that trend. However, the Golden Gophers haven’t been swept in a road series all season. And with the status of key Irish forwards Max Ellis and Jesse Lansdell in doubt, this will probably be closer to just a good weekend for Notre Dame, rather than a truly great one.

Game 1: Notre Dame 4, Minnesota 2
Game 2: Notre Dame 2, Minnesota 3 (OT)

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About Nate Moller

Nate is a junior majoring in chemical engineering. He is originally from a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota and is currently living in Siegfried Hall. Some of his passions include running, cross country skiing, and getting too worked up about Notre Dame and Minnesota sports teams.

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About Andrew McGuinness

Andrew McGuinness is a sophomore in Siegfried Hall from Haddonfield, New Jersey, a short drive away from Philadelphia. Naturally, he loves all of his Philadelphia sports teams, even if they don't always love him back. Feel free to reach out to talk sports or TV shows, especially if they're Ted Lasso, Stranger Things, or/and Survivor.

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About Thomas Zwiller

Thomas is a sophomore currently in attendance at Holy Cross College, studying Business and Theology He is from Saint Joseph MI, and went to high school at Saint Joe SB, playing both varsity football and hockey. Feel free to contact him about all things NFL and NBA.

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