Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Notre Dame Preview

Ahhhh, still 40 hours until puck drop! An entire workweek of life still to go. Oh, well, here's some Notre Dame notes to pass the time:

Road to Frozen Four
After losing only once in their last nine regular season games, the Fighting Irish finished second in the CCHA to fellow Frozen Four participant Michigan. Much like the Bulldogs, they had a disappointing showing in the conference tournament, getting routed by Miami 6-2 in the semifinals and losing 4-2 to Michigan in the third place game.

Notre Dame ended up ranked 11th in the Pairwise (UMD finished 9th) and received the 3 seed in the Northeast regional. In the NCAA tournament's opening round they beat Merrimack 4-3 in overtime. Former Edina (previously of St. Thomas Academy) football and hockey star Anders Lee scored the game-winning goal. More on him later.

In the quarterfinals Notre Dame beat New Hampshire 2-1. I watched about half of this game and it was pretty entertaining. Lots of chances for both squads, but in the end Notre Dame goalie Mike Johnson was just too damn good.

The Irish are 0-2-1 vs. the WCHA this season, losing to Mankato, and losing and tying in a series with the Sioux in Grand Forks. They beat UMD 3-1 in the teams' last meeting, which was two years ago.

Key Guys

L to R: Anders Lee, TJ Tynan, Mike Johnson

Anders Lee
#9 Fr. LW 6-3, 218
Led the Irish with 24 goals this year. Big, Strong, Athletic. Think Dylan Olsen, if he played wing. Lee played quarterback for Edina and was the 2008 Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year, so yeah, he's quite an athlete.

TJ Tynan
#18 Fr. C 5-8, 156
Led the Irish with 53 points this year. Small, Quick, Ginger. Think Jack Connolly. Named College Hockey News and CCHA Freshman of the Year. Not a great fighter.

Mike Johnson
#32 So. G 5-10, 194
Carried Notre Dame for stretches in the Northeast Regional. Named Regional MVP, stopping 69 of 73 shots. He's young, but he's good.

The Irish are young - 12 freshman and five seniors on their roster, whereas UMD has six seniors/seven freshman - but the upperclassmen have experience. Notre Dame has made the NCAA Tournament three of the last four years. From what I saw against New Hampshire, they are pretty skilled and would rank right up with the upper echelon of the WCHA. That being said, it's always dicey when a team relies on freshman to score in high-pressure games.

The Bulldogs have the top line in the nation, a hot goalie, just knocked off the #1 overall seed (yes Yale was way overrated, but still) and the Xcel will be full of UMD fans. This will be our toughest playoff test so far, but I feel pretty good about the game overall. I would love to see an all-WCHA final and get another crack at the Sioux, and I think we will. Bulldogs over Notre Dame and Sioux over Michigan. Let's do it boys.

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