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Michigan looking to secure postseason home ice advantage this weekend against Notre Dame

Senior weekend at Yost will have postseason ramifications for both teams.

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

The No. 4 Michigan Wolverines (20-10-2) will close out the regular season this weekend against No. 19/20 Notre Dame (14-14-4) at Yost Arena. As the regular season comes to an end, one team enters tonight with postseason positioning on the line while the other enters with postseason life on the line.

Michigan — currently No. 3 in the Pairwise rankings — could theoretically absorb a sweep against Notre Dame, lose in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, and still secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament. But that’s a loser’s mentality.

Currently tied for second in the Big Ten standings, the Wolverines could finish as low as fifth in the conference, or secure sole possession of the No. 2 seed, thus securing two home games during the upcoming Big Ten Tournament. The Fighting Irish have an even greater sense of urgency.

Notre Dame is currently in a three-way tie on Pairwise with Cornell and Northeastern for the final three spots in the NCAA Tournament. The Irish are not on the bubble, they ARE the bubble.

Of the predictive top 16 teams, no team is propped up more by one single player than Notre Dame. Goaltender Ryan Bischel is third in the country with .930 save percentage, and No. 1 nationally with 1,015 saves. Bischel is 48 saves ahead of Michigan State’s Dylan St. Cyr in second place.

Bischel is “supported” by the No. 52 (out of 60) scoring offense in hockey. The only other team outside of the top 30 in scoring offense that’s in the top 16 of the Pairwise rankings is Michigan Tech, which clocks in at No. 31.

Despite its lowly production, Michigan will have to mark Notre Dame’s lone 20-point scorer: Omaha transfer Chayse Primeau (8G, 13A, 21 PTS). Primeau had the game-tying power play goal against the Wolverines in November, which eventually led to an OT win for the Irish.

It’s senior night in Ann Arbor, and while there will be a celebration for captain Nolan Moyle, Eric Ciccolini, Nick Granowicz, Jay Keranen and Keaton Pehrson, the Wolverines have home ice to lock up.


  • Zone time. Michigan must win the time of possession battle and have its forecheck wear down the Irish defense. Tired defensemen will make it easier for the Wolverines to establish screeners and a net-front presence to obstruct Bischel’s view of the puck. With a line of sight, Bischel is one of the toughest to beat but with long shifts and sustained pressure, Michigan can break him.
  • Kickstart the power play offense. The Wolverines have not scored a power play goal since the first period of the ‘Duel in the D.’ Despite having the No. 3 scoring offense in college hockey, Michigan’s power play is at No. 17, and that special teams inefficiency could be back-breaking in the NCAA Tournament. Michigan must find answers across both units of the power play and find a spark that can help propel it past the likes of a stellar goaltender like Bischel, and build momentum entering the postseason. In fairness, Michigan’s Luke Hughes and power play quarterback has been out due to injury since game one against Ohio State, which brings me to my last key.
  • HEALTH. More than winning this weekend, having players return is the No. 1 key and goal of the weekend. The aforementioned Hughes went out and Michigan’s power play fell apart. His blue line mate Jacob Truscott is rumored to be done for the season, and the Wolverines just welcomed back defenseman Seamus Casey and forward Rutger McGroarty from injury, but they were still getting their legs beneath them against the Buckeyes. Including Frank Nazar, Michigan hasn’t played a game with all its best guys available, but the team is optimistic to have everyone — save Truscott — return in time for the NCAA Tournament. If Hughes is back tonight, Michigan locks up the No. 2 seed in dominant fashion.


WHEN: Friday, Feb. 24, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Ann Arbor, MI; Yost Arena


HOW TO LISTEN: Varsity Podcast Network


WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 25, 8 p.m.

WHERE: Ann Arbor, MI; Yost Arena

HOW TO WATCH: Big Ten Network

HOW TO LISTEN: Varsity Podcast Network