Last weekend, Irish hockey team Notre Dame Fighting welcomed the top-ranked Michigan Wolverines to South Bend and managed to squeeze out a series split. They’re back on the road this weekend, traveling to Columbus, Ohio for a conference series with the #12 Ohio State Buckeyes.
Where, when, how to see
- Where: Value Center Arena at Schottenstein Center, Columbus, OH
- When: Friday, November 18, 7pm ET (Game 1); Saturday, November 19, 5 p.m. ET (Game 2)
- How-To: Streaming on Big Ten Plus (Games 1 and 2)
Like much of the young season so far, Notre Dame played two distinctly different games last weekend. They made an early pass to Michigan in game one before losing all defensive responsibility in the second period. They lost that game 5-1. They went down early in game two before fighting back to level the game and eventually win 3-2 in overtime. They were outplayed 77-55 over the weekend, but game two was a nearly even 33-31 split.
Ryan Bischel played very well again, saving 70 of 77 shots he faced. His SV% is now at .928 per year and he’s fully recovered after a somewhat bumpy start to the season. The return of Nick Leivermann also went well with Bischel’s strong game. After missing the first four games through injury, Leivermann has been Notre Dame’s best-performing player since his return to the last eight. He has seven points in those eight games, including four goals.
Notre Dame needs more offense, however, and one player to keep an eye on in that regard is Ryder Rolston. Rolston started the season strongly, leading the team early on with four goals. He still leads the team with four goals but hasn’t scored in his last five games. His shot percentage is down to 8.7, though he leads the team with 46 shots, 15 more than second-place Solag Bakich. Rolston had four points in his four games against Ohio State last year and if I had to pick anyone to make the scoring charts for Ireland this weekend it would be him and Leivermann.
Like several teams Notre Dame has faced this year, Ohio State does a good job of preventing their opponents from scoring, but not stopping shots by preventing shots from reaching the net. Starting goaltender Jakub Dobes has a good 2.48 GAA but only 0.911 SV%. The Buckeyes achieved those numbers by controlling shots at a rate of 57.6 CF%. They also have the second-best penalty shootout in the country, killing 91.3% of opponent power plays. Notre Dame still struggles with special teams, so their score will most likely need to be five-for-five.
Notre Dame currently sits sixth out of seven in the Big Ten rankings. While it’s early to look too closely, they run the risk of falling too far behind too quickly. Right ahead of them is Ohio State, so this series can take a lot of the pressure off either team. If Notre Dame can hit the road and get a result, it will set them well for the home return streak later in the year. However, they have struggled away from home, including being swept by Minnesota two weeks ago. If the Irish can pull off a split this weekend they should consider it a good result.