Michigan proved that its opening weekend drubbing of Arizona State was not a mirage, taking down a ranked Wisconsin team in Madison to make it four straight wins to open the year. The Badgers were a step up in competition on their home ice, but talent prevailed once again, pushing the Wolverines to fourth in the latest USCHO poll.
Neither game against Wisconsin was a cakewalk, with the Badgers jumping out in front both times. The way that Michigan responded, though, speaks to the ability of this team. On Thursday night, the Wolverines fell behind 1-0 after the first period, but scored three goals in a six-minute span in the second frame to really swing the tide. On Friday, the maize and blue rallied again, tying up the score 1-1 about 10 minutes after the Badgers went in front before winning in overtime.
Getting these come-from-behind wins against a good opponent on the road is a sign of maturity for a very young team. Michigan has the talent to play with anyone, but being able to dig in and fight from a losing position indicates that this team is extremely well put together and can do damage on a nightly basis. There should be an opportunity to put that on display against Notre Dame this weekend.
Series Info & How to Watch
Teams: Notre Dame Fighting Irish (0-2-0, 0 pts) at No. 6 Michigan Wolverines (4-0-0, 5 pts)
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Game 1: Friday, Nov. 27, 7:00 pm ET — BTN+
Game 2: Saturday, Nov. 28, 7:00 pm ET — BTN+
The Irish have only played one series this season, dropping both games to Wisconsin. Obviously there is no such thing as a transitive win, but Michigan should feel confident heading into this series back home at Yost. There will likely not be a contest that the Wolverines enter as the underdog during Big Ten play, and with the way the team has looked thus far, they should like their chances against anyone.
Still, Notre Dame should not be overlooked. The one blemish on last spring’s sprint up the PairWise rankings was a sweep at the hands of the Irish in Ann Arbor in late February. Like most good teams, they lost some talent while bringing in some quality freshmen, and two opening weekend losses are not much in the grand scheme of things. This is still a solid hockey team, even if they might take some time to get back to their former selves.
The biggest thing to watch this weekend is whose style will come out on top. Notre Dame is notorious for clogging up the middle of the ice and trying to control the tempo, while the Wolverines are loaded with talent and aggressive defensemen. The scales should tip in Michigan’s favor, but there needs to be a little more discipline this weekend — both in passing accuracy and in avoiding penalties — to lock up two more wins.