No. 1 Notre Dame hockey looks to bounce back at Minnesota

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent

COLLEGE HOCKEY

WHO: Notre Dame Fighting Irish (19-4-1 overall, 13-1-0-0 Big Ten) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers (15-12-1 overall, 6-9-1-1 Big Ten).

WHERE: 3M Arena at Mariucci in Minneapolis, Minn.

WHEN: Friday at 8 p.m. (ESPN2/WZOC-FM 94.3) and Saturday at 8 p.m. (Fox Sports North Plus/WZOC-FM 94.3)

RANKINGS: Notre Dame is No. 1 in both USCHO.com (media) and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine (coaches) polls; Minnesota is No. 13 and No. 14, respectively.

SERIES NOTES: Minnesota leads series 26-17-3 and is 17-8-2 in Minneapolis. … Coach Jeff Jackson’s Irish swept the Golden Gophers Nov. 24-25 on the Lefty Smith Rink at the Compton Family Ice Arena. … In the Friday opener, goalie Cale Morris made 44 saves and Andrew Oglevie scored a power-play goal at 1:43 of the second period in a 1-0 Irish victory. … In the Saturday getaway, Cal Burke had two goals, Jake Evans had a goal and two assists and Morris stopped 40 shots, 35 in the first two periods, as the Irish won, 5-2.

QUOTING JEFF JACKSON: (On bouncing back from loss to Wisconsin that ended 16-game winning streak) “I think our details have dropped off a little bit since that long break for Christmas. We have to get back our execution of fundamentals. … When you are winning, stuff sneaks into your game. Habits. We try to have good habits in our practices. Guys get a little comfortable when you win. They forget some of those details.” (On playing at 3M Arena) “It is probably the toughest environment in the conference, in my opinion, and Penn State is right there with them and we’ve got to go there next week.”

IRISH ICE CHIPS: Morris is 18-2 (.900, first nationally) as a starter, has a save percentage of .951 (first nationally) and a goals-against average of 1.67 (third nationally). … Evans continues to pace the Irish in scoring with 29 points on eight goals and 21 assists. … Oglevie has 10 goals, two fewer than team-leader Burke, and 10 assists for 20 points. … Senior defenseman Jordan Gross, who has played in all 143 games Notre Dame has played since he arrived on campus, has five goals and 18 points. … Evans has skated in 115 straight games. … Notre Dame is scoring 3.13 goals a game (18th nationally) and allowing 2.04 goals per game (third). … The Irish are 23rd nationally in power-play success (20.3 percent on 16 of 79 chances) and the penalty-kill unit is seventh (86.6 percent, allowing 11 goals in 82 chances). … At 9-0, Notre Dame is the last Division I school not to lose an official road game (the Irish were the listed “home” team at the United Center, which is considered a neutral site).

GOPHER GATHERINGS: Minnesota is 5-5 in its last 10 games. … Forward Rem Pitlick leads Minnesota in scoring with 21 points on 9 goals and 12 assists. … Forward Casey Mittelstadt has 20 points (7-13) followed by two players at 19 – forwards Brent Gates (8-11) and Tommy Novak (3-16). … Goalie Eric Schierhorn is ninth nationally in shutouts with three, 44th in save percentage (.906) and 29th in goals-against average (2.52). … As a team, the Gophers are 13th in scoring defense (2.50 goals per game) and 15th in penalty-killing percentage (83.3 percent). … The Gophers are coached by former Notre Dame defenseman Don Lucia, who played in 124 games for Lefty Smith from 1977-80. He has an overall record of 718-404-109 at Alaska-Fairbanks, Colorado College and Minnesota where his teams won back-to-back NCAA titles in 2002 and ’03.

NCAA BRACKETOLOGY: Chris Peters, writing for NCAA.com, has Notre Dame currently as the No. 1 overall seed for the NCAA tournament. He has Notre Dame the top seed in the Midwest Regional at Allentown, Pa. (PPL Center, March 24-25). His other top seeds are Cornell (Northeast/Worcester, Mass.), Clarkson (East/Bridgeport, Conn.) and St. Cloud State (West/Sioux Falls, S.D.). The Frozen Four is April 5 and 7 at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minn.

Notre Dame players on the bench during the Notre Dame-Michigan college hockey game Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, inside the Compton Family Ice Arena at Notre Dame in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN