Northeastern defeated Notre Dame to win the Shillelagh Tournament in 2013. Photo credit @GoNUmhockey
And so comes the weekend we’ve all been waiting for. Notre Dame, noted eastern team and longtime member of the Hockey East Association, having joined in 2013, comes to Boston and makes the journey to Historic Matthews Arena for the final time before they depart for the much weaker pastures of Big Ten Hockey and hopefully never come back.
The exit of Notre Dame from their long partnership with Hockey East might actually be a negative for the Huskies. While Notre Dame has had success against most other teams in Hockey East, they just can’t seem to get past the Huntington Hounds. Northeastern swept the Fighting Irish in 2011, handing Notre Dame their first ever loss at the Compton Family Ice Arena in a 9-2 blowout and winning again the next night. The Huskies won the season series 2-1 in 2013, becoming champions of Notre Dame’s Shillelagh tournament in the process, a “prestigious” tournament in which Notre Dame annually schedules themselves to play against awful teams such as Alabama-Huntsville, Brown, Holy Cross, and Niagara in a rather embarrassing effort to guarantee victory. Even more embarrassing is that in spite of that scheduling, Northeastern has still won the tournament more recently than the Irish have. Northeastern swept Notre Dame again in 2014-15 in a pair of games at Matthews Arena. The Fighting Irish thought they had finally broken their Northeastern curse by taking three league points against Northeastern last year, but it just wasn’t meant to be, as the Huskies went back to South Bend in the Hockey East Tournament, easily sweeping the Irish back under the rug on their road to the 2016 Hockey East Championship and winning the season series once again with a 2-1-1 record.
This year’s Notre Dame squad has some serious power and might be the best team the Irish have iced during their time in Hockey East. Jeff Jackson’s Irish were projected as the second-best team in the conference in the preseason and are led by junior forward and Bruins draft pick Anders Bjork. Bjork has already tallied 16 points on the young season, although 12 of them came against two rather bad defenses, 7 against Arizona State and 5 against UConn. In four games against quality competition, igork is at a much more reasonable point-per-game pace. The rest of the Fighting Irish offense is led by a few names Hockey East fans should be familiar with, Andrew Ogilvie, Dylan Malmquist, and Connor Hurley, and one new name, freshman Avalanche pick Cam Morrison. On the defensive end of things, the Irish start with the dynamic Jordan Gross anchoring the blue line alongside Blackhawks pick Dennis Gilbert, although some lesser known defensemen including sophomore Bobby Nardella and freshman Tory Dello have quietly been playing extremely well for Notre Dame so far. The tough Irish defense gets even tougher when you get back to their captain, goaltender Cal Petersen, who has underwhelmed slightly with a .912 save percentage through the first month, well below the .920-.940 mark he’s usually capable of.
On the Huskies’ end of things, this is another tough matchup they have to face without junior Nolan Stevens, who will likely miss at least the balance of the fall semester. His brother, Huskies’ captain John Stevens, is close to returning after missing the first three league games, and could make his return to the lineup tonight. Northeastern wll need a full-team effort to take down the Irish, including contributions from all four lines on offense and Ryan Ruck stepping up to at least match Petersen in the crease. The good news for NU is that despite the quality of Notre Dame on paper, they’ve yet to sweep a series against anyone besides Arizona State this season, so the door might be open for some points against a skilled but inconsistent opponent.
Fallon: 4-3 NU; 4-3 ND
Davis: 4-2 NU; 3-1 ND
Downie: 4-2 NU; 3-1 ND
(Yes, we both picked the exact same result and score without seeing each other’s picks)