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Michigan hockey heads to South Bend to face Notre Dame this weekend

The irish had Michigan’s number last season and took four of five from the Wolverines.

COLLEGE HOCKEY: FEB 26 Michigan at Notre Dame Photo by Joseph Weiser/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The No. 2 ranked Michigan Wolverines are hitting the road for two games for the second consecutive weekend. This time, they are heading to South Bend to take on the struggling No. 16 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Last year, Notre Dame gave the Wolverines problems with its defensive style and opportunistic offense. The Irish helped deny Michigan the regular season Big Ten title and were the only team to sweep the Wolverines in 2021, and they did so twice.

However, Michigan finally got revenge against Notre Dame in the Big Ten Tournament with a 2-1 victory in the semifinals round before claiming the tournament championship

This year, Notre Dame has struggled to begin the season. Currently, the Irish are 4-4-2 with only one victory in their last five games, but are undefeated at home. The average record is very fitting because on paper, Notre Dame is in the middle of the road nationally in terms of goals scored and goals allowed. The latter is surprising given the Irish’s defense-to-offense mentality.

In net, Ryan Bischel is one of the best goalies in the Big Ten with a save percentage of 93.2%. Bischel is further aided by his defensemen’s willingness to block shots, a tactic reminiscent of last year’s team that disrupted the Wolverines’ offensive flow.

However, on the offensive end, the Irish are in a slump. In four of the last five games, Notre Dame has scored one goal or fewer, and will be looking to break this habit at home. Notre Dame’s attack is well balanced, with eight players accruing four points this season and forward Ryder Rolston leading the team with nine.

Rolston has been exceptionally good against Michigan. As a sophomore, Rolston tallied his first career goal and first multi-goal game against the Wolverines last season. If any Notre Dame player is going to make a difference this weekend, it will be Rolston.

Keys to the game

  • This is a momentum-building opportunity for the Wolverines. Michigan is 1-1 in conference play and a sweep against an average Notre Dame team would help propel this team before the heavyweight showdown next weekend in Ann Arbor against Minnesota.
  • Limit 50/50 plays in the neutral zone. Notre Dame will need mistakes to score enough to win this series. If Michigan can play conservative in the neutral zone, it will be hard for the Irish to capitalize on any odd-man rushes and breakaways.
  • Puck possession. If the Irish wants to block 20 shots a game, make them feel it. If Michigan can control the puck on the forecheck, the Irish defense will wear down and open up easier scoring chances for Michigan’s potent offense.
  • Prepare Portillo. Goalie Erick Portillo will return this weekend after being sicka week ago and missing the series against Penn State. It is important he makes a couple easy saves to begin the game to reestablish his rhythm and feel.
  • Finish, finish, finish. The Wolverines have blown three two-goal leads in their last four games. Michigan has proven the old adage correct that a two-goal lead is the worst lead in hockey. It is imperative — especially on the road — to close out opponents in emphatic fashion.

Game 1

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: South Bend, Indiana, Compton Family Ice Arena

How to watch: Peacock

How to listen: Varsity Podcast Network

Game 2

When: Saturday, 6 p.m.

Where: South Bend, Indiana, Compton Family Ice Arena

How to watch: Peacock

How to listen: Varsity Podcast Network