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Michigan Hockey Preview: Wolverines head to South Bend for final series of 2023

The Wolverines hit the road to take on their Irish rivals.

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

The No. 13-ranked Michigan Wolverines (7-6-3) are hitting the road for their final two games before the winter break. After taking four points from St. Cloud State last weekend, Michigan will look to ride that momentum into South Bend for a critical conference series against Notre Dame (7-5-2).

Although they are currently second in the Big Ten, the Irish are riding a two-game skid where they have been outscored 10-2. Two weeks ago, Notre Dame lost the second of two games to Minnesota 4-1, and last weekend in a one-off, the Irish were smoked by top-ranked Boston College 6-1. Looking to keep pace with Wisconsin, Notre Dame needs every point it can get.

The Irish hockey team is similar to the Iowa football team — the defense is perennially one of the best in the country, but the offense fringes upon incompetency. This season is no different as Notre Dame is ranked No. 15 in team defense and tied for No. 43 in offense. As was the case last season as well, the Irish remain contenders largely on the back of 2022 Big Ten Goaltender of the Year, Ryan Bischel.

Bischel is once again the top goalie in the Big Ten and ranks top-10 nationally with a stellar .928 save percentage. Bischel is excellent at eliminating angles and possesses a fast glove to take away one side of the net. Supporting Bischel is one of the best defenses in the conference who excels with a strength in numbers, swarming approach.

On the blue line, Notre Dame is anchored by a trio of players who specialize as both scorers and sponges. For points, the Irish have leaned on, Harvard transfer Ryan Siedem (1G, 9A) and Drew Bavaro (4G, 5A). For blocked shots, Zach Plucinski has absorbed the most with 31, but Siedem isn’t far behind with 26 of his own. Siedem is the best skater on this team and is integral to their defense-first mentality.

Up front for the Irish, Landon Slaggert (10G, 4A) leads this opportunistic attack in goals and points (14). Supporting Slaggert is top assist man, freshman Danny Nelson (2G, 10A), who is also second on the team in points with 12. What Slaggert and Nelson like in forechecking dynamics, the duo makes up for in backchecking physicality. It’s hard to classify any skater on this team as a true forward, but the Irish do possess five capable defenders on the ice at all times who all fly to the puck.

Looking to break through this Notre Dame defense will be a quintet of capable scorers for Michigan led by T.J. Hughes (8G, 12A) with 20 points, and the “old man” of the group, junior Dylan Duke (7G, 11A), with 18 points.

Gavin Brindley (10G, 7A) is the team’s leading goal-scorer and is tied with Frank Nazar III (7G, 10A) for third on the active roster with 17 points. Freshmen Garrett Schifsky (8G, 8A) rounds out the five with 16 points and has been a revelation with key forwards Rutger McGroarty, Jackson Hallum, and Mark Estapa out with injuries and potentially lost for the season.

On the blue line, Seamus Casey (4G, 18A) has become a full-grown superstar right before our eyes. Casey leads all defensemen nationally in points and is tied for third in the nation among all skaters. Casey is arguably the most dynamic player in college hockey and has been the ultimate mismatch for the Wolverines in every game this season.

Goaltender Jake Barczewski recorded his first career shutout in maize and blue last weekend, and the first shutout for a Michigan goalie since March 2022. On the season, Barzo has posted a .913 save percentage and, when given proper defensive support, has been reliable between the pipes.

A sweep this weekend would be massive for this team. Over the first half of the season, Michigan has been the best two-period team in hockey, but has struggled to close out games. With a lot of hockey remaining, six points and pulling themselves to .500 in the Big Ten would be a huge boost in momentum before the second half of the season.

Game 1

When: Friday, Dec. 1, 7:30 p.m. ET

Where: Compton Family Ice Arena, South Bend, IN

How to watch: Peacock

How to listen: The Varsity Network

Game 2

When: Saturday, Dec. 2, 6 p.m. ET

Where: Compton Family Ice Arena, South Bend, IN

How to watch: Peacock

How to listen: The Varsity Network