The intensity level gets kicked up significantly for No. 14 Michigan Hockey (4-3-0) this weekend.
No. 6 Notre Dame (4-3-1) visits Yost Ice Arena for Friday and Saturday night games to open the Big Ten Conference schedule for the Wolverines. Both games will start at 7:30 p.m. with television coverage from BTN Plus.
Even though their season records are nearly the same, Notre Dame’s level of competition has far exceeded the level of Michigan’s opponents.
Michigan has competed against unranked Vermont, St. Lawrence and Lake Superior State in three of their four opening weekends in the 2018-19 season. The Wolverines’ other two contests were against Western Michigan, who held a No. 19 ranking at the time.
Five of Notre Dame’s games in 2018-19 have been against teams with single-digit national rankings, one against No. 4 Providence, and two each against No. 2 Minnesota Duluth and No. 7 Ohio State. Notre Dame started the season with a No. 2 ranking and have maintained a position in the top handful of teams through the first month of the season.
Known for their strong defensive game, a trademark of Irish head coach Jeff Jackson, Notre Dame seems to always find just enough offense to win. Only 17 goals have been allowed by Notre Dame through their eight games this season while the Irish have scored 26 themselves (U-M has scored 25 and allowed 24).
Michigan is still searching for consistent play on the defensive side of the puck and, likewise, a netminder who can consistently perform well. Both junior Hayden Lavigne and freshman Strauss Mann have posted goals-against averages over 3.00 and save percentages under .900.
Sophomore forward Josh Norris has easily been the top catalyst for the Wolverine offense, chipping in six goals and six assists over the initial seven games this season for a team-best 12 points. The Oxford, Mich., native has established himself as the dominant offensive player for the Wolverines.
Rosemont, Ill., native and defenseman Bobby Nardella is a prototypical offensive defenseman, and has led the Irish offense from his position on the blue line this season. Nardella has scored four goals and added 7 assists, including one power-play goal and one shorthanded marker.
Michigan State at Arizona State (Fri./Sat.)
#16 Minnesota at #20 Wisconsin (Fri./Sat.)
#7 Ohio State at Colgate (Fri./Sat.)
Robert Morris at #8 Penn State (Fri.)
#8 Penn State at Robert Morris (Sat.)