WHO: Notre Dame Fighting Irish (14-8-3, 7-6-2-2 Big Ten) vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (15-5-4, 8-3-3-2 Big Ten).
WHERE: Value City Arena (18,809), Columbus, Ohio.
WHEN: Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 8 p.m.
TV: BTN Plus (Friday) and BTN (Saturday).
RADIO: WZOC-FM (94.3) and UND.com.
RANKINGS: Notre Dame is No. 11 in USCHO.com (media) poll, No. 13 in USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine (coaches) poll and No. 14 in NCAA Tournament Pairwise Comparison Ratings. … Ohio State is No. 4 in both polls and No. 5 in Pairwise.
RIVALRY: Series stands 35-35-10. … Buckeyes beat Irish 1-0 on Nov. 2, but Notre Dame prevailed 2-1 onNov. 3.
SHAVINGS: First place is on line with coach Jeff Jackson’s second-place Irish, coming off five-point weekends against Wisconsin and Michigan State, just four points behind first-place Buckeyes, idle last weekend but on three-game winning streak. … Buckeyes are 7-4 at home; Irish are 8-2-2 away from South Bend. … Junior Cale Morris was Big Ten Second Star of Week with 49 saves in 6-3 victory over Michigan State and 29 saves (four in overtime) plus four “unofficial” saves in shootouts following 1-1 Saturday tie with Spartans. … Freshmen Michael Graham has nine points (6 goals, 3 assists) since pairing with junior center Mike O’Leary and senior left wing Dylan Malmquist prior to Wisconsin series; trio has combined for nine goals and 12 assists. … Defensemen Bobby Nardella, who had game-tying goal Saturday versus Spartans, and Andrew Peeke (NHL Columbus Blue Jackets draftee) anchor power-play unit that is 6-of-13 in last four games. … Goalies Sean Romeo (Friday) and Tommy Nappier (Saturday) split duties for Buckeyes; Nappier is ranked first in winning percentage (.833 on 9-1-2 record), second in save percentage (.940), third in goals-against average (1.78) and seventh in shutouts (3). … Senior Mason Jobst’s 14 goals (7 on power play) and 30 points lead Buckeyes; junior Tanner Laczynski has 8 and 25.
QUOTING JACKSON: “You’re going to run into tough games the rest of the way. There are no soft teams in the conference (nine points separate first from last). The only team that has been fairly consistent is the team we’re playing next, and that will be a big challenge for us.”
QUOTING PEEKE: “Obviously we’ve had two tough injuries to Cal Burke (appendectomy) and Cam Morrison (upper body). … We’ve found a way to come together and make the push we need to put us in the national ranking rather than on the bubble for the national tournament. The experience some of us have (two straight Frozen Fours) helps with the freshmen, getting them to understand that every game is a playoff game.”
QUOTING O’LEARY: “Ohio State has always been hard to play against. They’re really structured. We have to make sure we’re playing our game.”
– John Fineran, Tribune Correspondent