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Michigan Hockey Series Preview: Notre Dame

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After a weekend sweep over Penn State, the Wolverines return to Yost Ice Arena to face a tough Irish team.

COLLEGE HOCKEY: FEB 22 Notre Dame at Michigan Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After a series that saw the Michigan Wolverines flex their offensive muscle and reclaim the No. 1 spot in the USCHO poll, they now welcome the No. 14 ranked Notre Dame to Ann Arbor this weekend. The Irish are also coming off a sweep last weekend over Wisconsin.

Since joining the Big Ten in 2017, the Irish found success winning the conference tournament back to back years in 2018, 2019. They have made the NCAA Tournament the last seven years, including last year even though their series against Boston College was canceled due to COVID-19 protocols.

The Wolverines won both games in the 2021 season against the Irish and before that, Notre Dame had won the previous four. Michigan leads the all time series between the two team with a record of 83-63-5.

Notre Dame currently sits fourth in the Big Ten standings with record of 2-2-0 (8-3-0, overall). Its success thus far can be attributed to goaltending and team defense lead by senior goalie Matthew Galajda. Since transferring from Cornell, he has amassed a .943 save percentage and is carrying a 1.38 GAA through the eight games he’s played, good for fifth in the country, and is second in shutouts with two.

The Irish as a team rank 12th in goals allowed giving up 19 through 11 games. They’ve given up 264 shots against, which averages out to about 25 per game. Defensively they are lead by Spencer Stasney, a senior who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2018 NHL Draft by Nashville. He sits with seven points (0 G, 7 A) in 10 games and is +9, good for second on the team behind the other defensive stalwart in sophomore Jake Boltman is +10 and has six points (1 G, 5 A) in 10 games.

The Irish forwards have been able to get a bevy of scoring from their top forwards, Max Ellis leads them with 14 points (7 G, 7 A) followed by Solag Bakich with 10 points (3 G, 7 A). The Irish have three forwards all within a point of each with Ryder Rolston (2 G, 7 A), Landon Slaggert (4 G, 4 A) 2020, Round 3 (No. 79 overall) by Chicago, and Trevor Janicke (5 G, 3 A) 2019, Round 5 (No. 132 overall) by Anaheim.

The Irish have a good amount of depth scoring-wise with four of their top point producers coming from defensemen. They have won games by committee on both ends through the first part of the season. The forward pair of Bakich and Ellis are whom the Wolverines will try and shadow this weekend. They had a combined five points in the sweep over Wisconsin. Look for Pearson to try and match Owen Power and Nick Blankenburg (pending if he’s healthy) to try and limit them. Steve Holtz will most likely fill in for Blakenburg like he did last week if he can’t go.

We know Michigan has had no trouble scoring or creating chances this season, but Notre Dame will be the best defensive team it has seen up to this point. When the Wolverines split their series with Western Michigan and Wisconsin, they struggled to keep there D-zone coverage and not turn pucks over from trying to do too much offensively. Notre Dame will try to muddy this game up and make life as difficult as it can for Michigan offensively. The Wolverines will have to concentrate on scoring ugly goals and getting traffic in front of Galajda.

The special teams battle this weekend will be key. Notre Dame ranks first in the Big Ten for penalty kill at 95%, while Michigan ranks first in the conference with 15 power play goals, good for 1.25 per game. Notre Dame’s special teams will be put to the test against a power play like Michigan. Whichever teams unit can win that match will most likely win the series.

Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Saturday at Yost Ice Arena, Both game’s will be streamed on BTN Plus.