Hockey preview capsule: Notre Dame vs. Minnesota
WHAT: Big Ten Tournament
WHO: Notre Dame Fighting Irish (14-13-7) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers (14-13-7) in best-of-three, first-round playoff series.
WHEN: Friday 8 p.m. EST, Saturday 8 p.m. EST and (if necessary) Sunday at 7 EDT.
WHERE: 3M Arena at Mariucci (10,000), Minneapolis, Minn.
TV: Saturday FS North (subscribers can watch on Fox Sports GO App or BTN+ subscription).
STREAMING: Friday and Sunday games via Fox Sports App (you must be FS2 subscriber).
RADIO: WZOC-FM (94.3) and UND.com.
RIVALRY: Minnesota leads 31-21-5. … In Nov. 1-2 series at Minneapolis, teams tied Friday 2-2 (Gophers won shootout) and Irish won Saturday 5-3. … In Feb. 14-15 series at South Bend, teams tied Friday 3-3 (Gophers won shootout) and Gophers won Saturday 2-1.
LAST WEEKEND: Coach Jeff Jackson’s Fighting Irish lost 3-1 and tied 2-2 (won shootout) visiting Michigan State. … Coach Bob Motzko’s Golden Gophers tied 2-2 (lost shootout) and lost 2-1 to visiting Michigan.
RANKINGS: Notre Dame receiving votes in USCHO.com (media) poll. … Minnesota ranked No. 19 in USCHO.com (media) poll and receiving votes in USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine (coaches) poll.
SHAVINGS: Notre Dame is two-time defending Big Ten Tournament champion, going 6-0 at home. … Last March 17, Irish beat Minnesota in semifinals 2-1 on Michael Graham’s goal 53 seconds into overtime. … Now in order to gain fifth straight NCAA tourney bid, Irish likely will have to win third tourney title on the road where they were 5-3-4 in league play. … Sophomore center Sammy Walker (11-27-28) leads junior right wing Brannon McManus (9-17-26) and freshman center Ben Meyers (8-16-24) in scoring and junior right wing Scott Reedy has a team-high 15 goals for Minnesota. … Top defensemen are senior Tyler Nanne (4-10-14) and freshman Jackson LaCombe (3-10-13). … Junior goalie Jack LaFontaine brings 2.72 goals-against average, .915 saves percentage and 7-8-2 record into game. … Senior left wing Cam Morrison (11-14-25) and sophomore right wing Alex Steeves (10-15-25) lead Irish in scoring followed by senior center Mike O’Leary (9-13-22) and senior captain Cal Burke (7-14-21). … Sophomore Spencer Stastney (3-16-19), junior Matt Hellickson (5-11-16) and senior Tory Dello (3-9-12) anchor defense. … Sophomore defenseman Nick Leivermann of Eden Prairie, Minn., has scored four of his five goals this season against Minnesota. … Senior goalie Cale Morris, the tourney MVP the last two seasons, has two shutouts, 2.49 goals-against average, .917 saves percentage and 11-12-7 record this season.
QUOTING JACKSON: (Season) “We’ve recovered from our first-half slump (Irish started 7-0-1 and then went 1-7-1) and I think we’ve played pretty good hockey in the second half. We’re still a little up and down from game to game. In that way it’s been a roller-coaster ride.”
(Going 3-0-1 in road trips to Penn State and Michigan) “That gives me confidence going into Minnesota that we have a fairly good idea what we have to do to be successful on the road.”
(Minnesota) “We just played them three weeks ago, so we know their skill level and speed. They are a very good transition team. Any time you play good teams it’s what you do with the puck.”