As conference play begins to ramp up, there are plenty of exciting contests that will take place this weekend, including a non conference battle between new-No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 3 Minnesota Duluth (more on that later).
For the rest of the Top 20 teams, their weekends will look like this:
Before we get into the weekend, there was some midweek action, including a Thursday night massacre in Chestnut Hill…
By No. 2 St Cloud State. The Huskies marched into Conte Forum and absolutely obliterated Boston College, steamrolling their way to a 7-0 shutout victory led by a hat trick from freshman Sam Hentges. Now, I know St. Cloud is the second ranked program in the country, but if you’re a fan of the Eagles, non conference play can’t end quick enough.
There’s really not much else to say about BC at this early stage of the season. This was a MASSIVE opportunity for the Eagles to move the needle and not only secure their first win of the season, but a huge upset over one of the nation’s top teams. Instead, they were shutout for the second consecutive game and ran out of their own building.
Earlier in the week, No. 15 Bowling Green continued its hot start to the season, winning convincingly over No. 19 Western Michigan 4-1. Sophomore duo Brandon Kruse and Max Johnson each picked up another point in the victory, and now have nine a piece, good for second-best in the NCAA.
Alright, let’s get into three of the most appetizing matchups this weekend has to offer:
- No. 1 Notre Dame vs No. 3 Minnesota Duluth: I mentioned it at the top, but boy do we have ourselves a showdown here. In a rematch of last year’s national title game, Notre Dame will get two cracks at revenge versus the defending champs, starting with tonight’s game which will be shown on NBCSN. Highlighting this series will be a pair of defensemen in Bobby Nardella (Notre Dame) and Scott Perunovich (Minnesota Duluth), each of whom are tied for most points in the nation with 10. Fighting Irish junior Cal Burke will look to remain on a hot streak and build off his NCAA-leading five goals, one of four players to have that many. These will also be the first two home games of the season for Notre Dame, so prepare for Compton Family Ice Arena to be rocking both nights. Prediction: Split. This has one of those “Duluth wins Friday but ND comes back and wins on Saturday” feels to it.
- No. 4 Ohio State vs No. 15 Bowling Green – “The Battle For Ohio” should live up to its name this weekend in a home-and-home series between the fourth-ranked Buckeyes and fifteenth-ranked Falcons. When it comes to making the NCAA tournament, perhaps one of the most important aspects that gets looked at is matchups outside of the conference, and Bowling Green’s biggest ones are tonight and tomorrow. The Falcons haven’t beaten OSU since 2015, but have two huge chances to knock off their in-state foe. As I stated earlier, BG is heading into this one on a high after a midweek W, and I’m all-in on the trio of Kruse/Johnson/Stephen Baylis. Also, this graph illustrating how crucial Falcons head coach Chris Bergeron is to a program shows BG got a good one. Prediction: I hate to be cliché, but each team is winning at home this time around. The Falcons may not win the first one, but Slater Family Ice Arena is going to be a tough place to play so look for a series split.
- No. 5 Minnesota vs No. 17 North Dakota – For one night in Vegas, these two teams will renew a historic rivalry in the 2018 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game. A neutral site equals no home-ice advantage for either side, so look for a back-and-forth game that should feature some goals. Prediction: Following a split with Minnesota State last week, the Fighting Hawks win their second straight game versus a team from Minnesota, and bring a win back to Grand Forks.
Other Games To Watch:
- No. 10 PSU vs No. 13 Princeton – Nothing says “happy first game of season!” like a trip to Happy Valley, but that’s what the Tigers have in front of them as they begin their campaign on the road.
- No. 6 Providence vs Boston University – If there were ever a time for BU to get its first win of the season, a home opener versus the sixth-best team in the country, which also happens to be in the conference, seems like a pretty good one. The Friars should head back to R.I. with a win, but anything can happen at Agganis.
- No. 16 UMass vs Merrimack – Newly ranked, the Minutemen face a home-and-home with a Merrimack team that is one week removed from an impressive 4-0 shutout victory over the Terriers. Bias aside, I’m looking forward to seeing how UMass performs now that they have a number next to their name, and can see a 1-0-1 weekend in its future.
So that’s all for this preview. I missed a TBT yesterday, but have an idea floating around regarding that segment that should be much more exciting than a typical description of what team, game, goal I’m writing about. Stay tuned.