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Zwiller: Who are Notre Dame’s hockey rivals?

| Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Last Wednesday, No. 13 Notre Dame hosted unranked Boston College and added to the case that Notre Dame should be ranked in the top 10.

For those who missed the midweek hockey action, the game was a resounding 8-2 Irish victory, despite the Eagles scoring within 17 seconds.

The statement win is just what the Irish needed as they take on No. 11 Minnesota in what is a critical conference matchup. Currently, Minnesota is ahead of the Irish in the Big Ten standings. Minnesota has 27 points to Notre Dame’s 24 points. A win for the Irish could help them shoot up the standings and give them a home game in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.

However, instead of breaking down the implications of the upcoming series on the playoffs, I want to go back to Boston College.

As I sat down in the dining hall, I began to talk about the game’s result with a friend who was excited about the outcome. As the conversation ended, he said, “it always feels great to get a win over a rival.”

That made me pause, because I had not precisely thought of Boston College as a hated rival, which does indeed make an already sweet victory that much better.

I immediately turned to Wikipedia (shameful, I know), knowing that there was always a list of rivals in the general information section for football teams. However, Wikipedia had nothing to offer in that department besides mentioning a few rivals back from Notre Dame’s Hockey East days. (The Notre Dame Football section, in case you were wondering, lists Michigan, MSU, Navy and USC)

Disappointed, I googled “Notre Dame hockey rivals,” and an article listing Michigan and Boston College came up, but honestly, those two were the only two consistently mentioned teams I found.

So, as a way to set the record straight, I will try and explore the rivalries that are well-known and offer up some new ones as well.

Boston College

So, yeah, the well-known rivalry I did not know existed is arguably one of the most storied in the hockey program’s history. The two first played in 1969; Boston College bested Notre Dame that day 7-3, and the two have played 46 times since.

The rivalry even has a name, the “Holy War on Ice,” which references the Notre Dame-Boston College football rivalry and is reasonably close as far as rivalries go: Boston College leads the series 24-21-2.

Thanks to their victory last Wednesday, Notre Dame is currently in possession of the trophy given to the winner of the rivalry, the Lefty Smith – John “Snooks” Kelley Memorial Trophy. The award is named after the two coaches who coached during the first game.

University of Michigan

This one is a much older rivalry for Notre Dame, with the first meeting taking place in 1923, in which Notre Dame won at Ann Arbor 3-2 and 5-1 later in the year in South Bend.

After two Michigan victories in 1924, the series took a hiatus until 1971, when both teams won two games. The series was then very much a Notre Dame-controlled one until 1982, when Michigan won a series-long 18 games (including two 13-2 Michigan victories). Since then, I would argue that Michigan has controlled the series as they now have an 83-65-5 series lead over Notre Dame.

If I had to “predict” where this rivalry will go, I would argue that it will become the biggest rivalry for Notre Dame, more prominent than Boston College. The fact that the two share a conference will guarantee that the teams play rather frequently, with more on the line than in games against BC.

Imagine Michigan and Notre Dame playing for a conference championship. That would be awesome. Think back to Michigan playing Notre Dame in the NCAA Semifinals. Having that much on the line will add drama to a series in which Notre Dame has fallen somewhat behind.

Michigan State

This one feels like a rivalry, if only because of geography. The series began in 1927 with Notre Dame winning 3-1 in East Lansing. However, the Spartans have largely run the series, which they lead 70-48-15.

Western Michigan

This is another geography-based rivalry, but a much closer one than the MSU rivalry.

According to data from College Hockey News, Notre Dame lost its first two games to Western by a combined score of 19-4 way back in 1988.

When the two teams faced off again in 1992, Western won the series by outscoring the Irish 17-9. That was how the series went for a while, honestly, with Notre Dame making a bit of a comeback much more recently.

Presently, Western leads the series 33-31-10. I honestly found that result to be an interesting one. As a more recent hockey fan, I assumed Notre Dame had a decent series lead, but Western has dominated historically.


While the Golden Gophers are not yet an official rival, I think that they have the potential to be.

Of course, both the Irish and Gophers play in the Big Ten, and I would argue that the two teams are both good programs. As with Michigan, I can easily see the two programs clashing over conference championships.

This might be my favorite future rivalry because it will develop as a non-football rivalry. Michigan, MSU and Western are more geographic rivalries than anything, and Boston College is just a football/school rivalry.

However, to my knowledge, Minnesota does not have a pre-existing rivalry with other Notre Dame programs. That would make it a hockey-first rivalry, which would be exciting. I often feel like hockey bows to the other programs, which is demonstrated by the fact that hockey does not have a unique rival.

The series is not the closest; my search through College Hockey News records revealed Minnesota’s control of the series. Notre Dame is 26-37-2 against the Golden Gophers, but there is certainly room for the rivalry to grow as the two face off Friday and Saturday at 7:30 and 6 p.m., respectively.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.


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.

Contact Thomas