Hockey preview: Everything you need to know about Notre Dame's weekend series vs. Ohio State

By John Fineran
ND Insider
Notre Dame players celebrate during the Notre Dame vs. RIT NCAA hockey game Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021 at the Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend. The eighth-ranked Irish host No. 18 Ohio State Friday and Saturday.

COLLEGE HOCKEY

Notre Dame (10-3-0, 4-2-0 Big Ten 10 points) vs. Ohio State (8-4-0, 4-2-0 Big Ten 12 points)

When: Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 6 p.m.

Where: Lefty Smith Rink in Compton Family Ice Arena (5,022), South Bend

TV: NBCSN Friday; NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus Saturday

Streaming: NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app both nights

Radio: WZOC-FM (94.3) and UND.com

Tickets: Mobile single-game tickets and plans available through UND.com/BuyTickets. … Face masks must be worn in Compton except when eating and drinking.

Rankings: Coach Jeff Jackson’s Fighting Irish are ranked No. 8 in both the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine (coaches) and USCHO.com (media) polls. … Coach Steve Rohlik’s Buckeyes are No. 18 in USCHO.com (media) poll and receiving votes in USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine (coaches) poll.

Recaps

Recaps: Notre Dame had the week off after its Friday, Nov. 26 home game against non-conference Boston College was postponed because of Eagles’ COVID-19 issues. … Ohio State split non-conference home series with visiting Mercyhurst of the Atlantic Hockey Association, losing 5-4 Friday and winning 3-2 Saturday.

Rivalry

Rivalry: Notre Dame leads 40-39-11 in the series which began on March 1, 1969 with a 7-1 Irish victory at the OSU Ice Arena in Columbus, Ohio. … In games played in South Bend, Notre Dame is 21-17-4. … In 1920-21 season, Irish took three of four games, winning 3-0 before losing 3-2 in the series at Compton Dec. 12-13 and then sweeping the Buckeyes 6-1 and 8-1 at Value City Arena in Columbus Feb. 5-6.

Scouting Irish

Notre Dame is riding a six-game winning streak after pair of overtime victories (3-2, 5-4) Nov. 19-20 at then No. 1 Michigan. … Irish are No. 1 in nation on penalty kill with 0.939 percentage (allowing just three goals in 49 chances). … Most productive line is led by junior right wing Max Ellis (10-8-18) and includes junior center Solag Bakich (3-8-11) and junior left wing Jesse Lansdell (3-3-6). … Sophomore left wing Landon Slaggert (4-4-8), who won a gold medal for Team USA in the World Juniors and has been invited to try out for the team this season, skates with senior brother/center Graham (5-2-7) and junior right wing Trevor Janicke (5-4-9). … Senior Cam Burke (3-5-8) centers for sophomores Ryder Rolston (4-8-12) and Grant Silianoff (2-5-7). … Leading defense are senior Nick Leivermann (3-7-10), graduate Adam Karashik (0-8-8), freshman Jake Boltmann (1-6-7) and senior Spencer Stastney (0-7-7). … Graduate goalie Matthew Galajda has two shutouts, 7-1 record, 1.38 goals-against average and .943 saves percentage, but it was junior Ryan Bischel (3-2 record, 2.50 average, .908 saves percentage) who backstopped both victories at Michigan. … NCAA statistics: Scoring offense, 3.69 goals per game (9th nationally); scoring defense, 1.92 (6th); scoring margin, 1.77 (6th); faceoff wins, 0.538 (13th); power plays, 0.170 (36th).

Scouting Buckeyes

Freshman center Georgii Merkulov, who hails from Ryazan, Russia (124 miles southeast of Moscow), was named the Big Ten Third Star of the Week after scoring two goals and two assists and winning 18 faceoffs in last weekend’s home split with Mercyhurst. … Merkulov is 74-43 (.632) in faceoffs and tied for team leading in scoring with 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) with 6-foot-4, 201-pound freshman defenseman Mason Lohrei (2-8). … Merkulov’s linemates are freshman Cam Thiesing (2-5-7) and junior Kamil Sadlocha (3-2-5). … Another top line is centered by senior Gustaf Westlund (4-2-6) with senior right wing Eric Cooley (0-3-3) and junior left wing Tate Singleton (4-4-8). … Lohrei is paired on defense with junior James Marooney (1-1-2) while seniors Will Riedell (1-2-3) and Grant Gabriele (1-4-5) are another pairing. … Freshman Jakub Dobeš, a 6-foot-4, 201-pound goaltender from Havirov, Czech Republic, is 8-3 with one shutout, a 1.88 goals-against average and a saves percentage of .931. … NCAA statistics: Scoring offense, 3.42 goals per game (16th); scoring defense, 2.00 (8th); scoring margin, 1.42 (10th); faceoff wins, 0.564 (3rd); power plays, 0.128 (50th); penalty kill, 0.750.

Quoting Jeff Jackson on …

♦ Maintaining momentum after week off: “I think the big thing was trying to keep our guys competitively ready. I am always concerned about bye weeks which this basically became. It’s been a matter of keeping them up-tempo and competing. After having six straight wins and playing well, you don’t want to lose that momentum.”

♦ His hockey team: “Every team is different, and you really don’t know what you have until you get through that first month or six weeks. One thing I like is the competitiveness of this group. Some of the graduates and some of the freshmen we’ve brought in are a little more physical in nature. But it’s really has been about our returning guys finding ways to elevate their games. I look at guys like (junior forwards) Max Ellis and Solag Bakich taking another big step. And guys like (defensemen) Jake Boltmann and Zach Plucinski (are) making a big difference on our back end.”

♦ The improved Buckeyes: “Steve (Rohlik) and his staff are very good. In many ways I look at them as being very similar to us right now. They have pretty good balance upfront, and that’s something we’ve had this year as well. They’ve gotten more production from their defense. And the one question mark they had going into the season has been answered by a freshman goaltender (Dobeš). It’s going to be a challenging weekend.”

BIG TEN STANDINGS

Pts, GP, W-L-T, OW-OL, SW, GF-GA

Michigan 17, 8, 5-3-0, 0-2, 0, 32-19

Minnesota 16, 8, 5-3-0, 0-1, 0, 26-19

Ohio State 12, 6, 4-2-0, 0-0, 0, 19-11

Notre Dame 10, 6, 4-2-0, 2-0, 0, 19-14

Michigan State 9, 6, 3-3-0, 0-0, 0, 15-20

Wisconsin 5, 8, 2-6-0, 1-0, 0, 14-28

Penn State 3, 6, 1-5-0, 0-0, 0, 13-27

(Overall, W-L-T, .Pct, GF-GA)

Michigan 12-4-0, .750, 68-36; Minnesota 9-7-0, .563, 54-42; Ohio State 8-4-0, .667, 41-24; Notre Dame 10-3-0, .769, 48-25; Michigan State 8-5-1, .607, 35-35; Wisconsin 4-11-1, .281, 25-52; Penn State 9-6-0, .600, 52-44.

Friday, Dec. 3 schedule

Ohio State at Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m.

Minnesota at Michigan, 6:30 p.m.

Michigan State at Penn State, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 4 schedule

Ohio State at Notre Dame, 6 p.m.

Michigan State at Penn State, 5 p.m.

Minnesota at Michigan, 7 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 10 schedule

Michigan State at Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m.

Michigan at Ohio State, 7 p.m.

Penn State at Wisconsin, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 11 schedule

Michigan State at Notre Dame, 7 p.m.

Michigan at Ohio State, 8 p.m.

Penn State at Wisconsin, 7 p.m.

COLLEGE HOCKEY POLLS

NOV. 29, 2021

USA TODAY/USA HOCKEY MAGAZINE (COACHES)

1. Minnesota Duluth (NCHC) (22 first-place votes) (10-3-1) 492 points (2 Last Week); 2. Michigan (Big Ten) (3 firsts) (12-4-0) 446 (3 LW); 3. Minnesota State (CCHA) (5 firsts) (12-4-0) 437 (1 LW); 4. Quinnipiac (ECAC) (4 firsts) (10-1-3) 424 (4 LW); 5. Western Michigan (NCHC) (10-4-0) 353 (7 LW); 

6. St. Cloud State (NCHC) (9-5-0) 326 (6 LW); 7. North Dakota (NCHC) (10-5-0) 284 (5 LW); 8. Notre Dame (Big Ten) (10-3-0) 263 (8 LW); 9. Cornell (ECAC) (8-1-0) 218 (10 LW); 10. Omaha (NCHC) (11-3-0) 196 (9 LW); 

11. Denver (NCHC) (8-4-0) 141 (11 LW); 12. Minnesota (Big Ten) (9-7-0) 130 (12 LW); 13. Providence (Hockey East) (12-5-0) 127 (14 LW); 14. Massachusetts (Hockey East) (7-4-1) 92 (13 LW); 15. UMass-Lowell (Hockey East) (8-2-2) 74 (RW).

Others receiving votes: Michigan Tech (CCHA) (8-5-0) 31, Northeastern (Hockey East) (11-4-1) 21, Clarkson (ECAC) (8-4-3) 8, Boston College (Hockey East) (7-5-2) 7, Harvard (ECAC) (5-3-1) 6, Ohio State (Big Ten) (8-4-0) 3, Bemidji State (CCHA) (8-6-0) 1. 

USCHO.com (MEDIA)

1. Minnesota Duluth (NCHC) (33 first-place votes) (10-3-1) 967 points (2 Last Week); 2. Minnesota State (CCHA) (6 firsts) (12-4-0) 907 (1 LW); 3. Michigan (Big Ten) (5 firsts) (12-4-0) 898 (4 LW); 4. Quinnipiac (ECAC) (6 firsts) (10-1-3) 877 (3 LW); 5. St. Cloud State (NCHC) (9-5-0) 765 (5 LW); 

6. Western Michigan (NCHC) (10-4-0) 734 (7 LW); 7. North Dakota (NCHC) (10-5-0) 682 (6 LW); 8. Notre Dame (Big Ten) (10-3-0) 615 (8 LW); 9. Cornell (ECAC) (8-1-0) 560 (10 LW); 10. Omaha (NCHC) (11-3-0) 532 (9 LW); 

11. Minnesota (Big Ten) (9-7-0) 517 (11 LW); 12. Denver (NCHC) (8-4-0) 443 (12 LW); 13. Providence (Hockey East) (12-5-0) 434 (14 LW); 14. Massachusetts (Hockey East) (7-4-1) 380 (13 LW); 15. UMass Lowell (Hockey East) (8-2-2) 329 (15 LW);

16. Northeastern (Hockey East) (11-4-1) 244 (18 LW); 17. Harvard (ECAC) (5-3-1) 141 (16 LW); 18. Ohio State (Big Ten) (8-4-0) 112 (17 LW); 19. Clarkson (ECAC) (8-4-3) 87 (RV); 20. Boston College (Hockey East) (7-5-2) 84 (19 LW).

Others receiving votes: Michigan Tech (CCHA) (8-5-0) 64, Bemidji State (CCHA) (8-6-0) 52, Penn State (Big Ten) (9-6-0) 21, RIT (Atlantic) (9-5-2) 17, Canisius (Atlantic) (8-6-1) 12, Connecticut (Hockey East) (8-6-0) 9, Northern Michigan (CCHA) (8-6-1) 7, Bowling Green (CCHA) (7-4-3) 5, Michigan State (Big Ten) (8-5-1) 3, Bentley (Atlantic) (8-7-0) 2.

— John Fineran, Tribune Correspondent