Onward to Victory
In their inaugural season as a member of the Big Ten, Notre Dame has already clinched the regular season conference championship. They won their sixth title, first on home ice, against inter-conference rival, Ohio State on February 9th. Hobey Baker candidate, Cale Morris, backstopped the Fighting Irish to his 21st victory of the year, making 31 saves that night. The power play was a dud again but nevertheless, the victory secured their spot as the top seed in the Big Ten Tournament as well as the sole bye.
🏆 Congratulations to your Big Ten regular-season champions!
— Notre Dame Hockey (@NDHockey) February 10, 2018
Despite securing their first seed position in the Big Ten, the Irish have lost the three following matches. They first split the series with Ohio State in half on the 10th. The remaining two was a sweep at the hands of Notre Dame’s arch-rival, Michigan. February 16th saw Michigan’s offence never really letting up as they went on to win 4-2. Two days later, in a gritty clash, the Wolverines and Irish fought tooth and nail to try and squeak at least one goal past the netminders. The lone tally came in the final minute of the second period and ended up being the decider. Tony Calderone completed the sweep in the beautiful Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor. Currently, they post a still dominant 22-8-2 (16-5-1-1 Big Ten) record. Recently, they’ve slipped to 3-5-1 since their 16 game win streak was snapped on January 21st by Minnesota.
Eyes on the Prize
The previously top-ranked team in the nation has suffered a drop in light of their lull. According to the USCHO polls they’ve dropped all the way to the fifth spot. The RPI and USA Today rankings are more merciful, putting them at numbers two and three respectively. But ultimately, polls aren’t what matter. It’s bringing the elusive National Championship to South Bend. Last year, they made the Frozen Four before losing to the eventual champion, first seed Denver University.
Notre Dame is, once again, poised to make a deep run in the National Championship Tournament. Only this time, it’s not as the underdogs. The regular season concludes with a series against Michigan State this weekend. Irish fans will, naturally, be too eager for the Big Ten Tournament. As the favourites to win the tourney, they could automatically lock in a spot in the 16-team bracket. The postseason journey begins March 2nd but with the Irish’s bye, they’ll begin play on the 10th at the Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend.
Following the Big Ten playoffs, they’ll inevitably move on to the National Championship Tournament. The quest for the National Title will finish in St. Paul on April 7th. Whether Notre Dame makes it or not, it’ll assuredly be another spectacle as they always are.
Embed from Getty Images