Series of the Week: Notre Dame vs Minnesota Duluth
In a rematch of last season’s NCAA Frozen Four Championship, the now top-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish will attempt to avenge their loss when they welcome the defending champion Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs to the Compton Family Ice Arena in what is undoubtedly the most highly anticipated series of this young college hockey season.
The Fighting Irish have yet to taste defeat so far this year, drawing Mercyhurst in an overtime thriller to start the season, before winning each of their next three games, including an 8-2 demolition of Nebraska-Omaha. Senior defensemen Bobby Nardella leads the team in scoring, compiling ten points (three goals and seven assists) in his first four games, which led to him being named the Big Ten’s first star of the week, as well as the NCAA’s third star of the week.
The No. 3 Bulldogs, on the other hand, were handed defeat in their first series of the year at the hands of now No. 5 Minnesota 7-4, after a 1-1 draw in the series opener. Despite the disappointing start, the defending champs were able to right the ship, sweeping Michigan Tech and Maine back to back weekends. Minnesota Duluth has a stud defenseman of their own in junior Scott Perunovich, who chose to return to school after being drafted by the St. Louis Blues in the second round of last April’s NHL Draft. Perunovich leads the team in scoring, with 10 points, three more than the Bulldog’s senior captain Parker Mackay.
Mackay will have tough shoes to fill, as last year’s captain Karson Kuhlman, who scored a vital goal in the championship game win over Notre Dame, has moved on to the NHL. Returning to help Mackay fill the void is last year’s top goal scorer Riley Tufte, who has matched Mackay for the team lead with 3 goals so far this season. Most importantly, the Bulldogs return junior goaltender Hunter Shepard to help defend their title, who has started the season strong, posting a .992 save percentage in his first two starts, after having a solid .925 mark last season.
Notre Dame will counter with none other than Cale Morris, last year’s Mike Richter Award winner, which is given to the nation’s top goaltender. Although Morris hasn’t been as sharp so far this season, posting an average .907 save percentage in his first two starts, he’ll be able to lean on Nardella, as well as fellow defensemen Andrew Peeke, who will serve as the Irish’s captain this season following the departure of former captain Jake Evans.
The Fighting Irish will look to make a statement this weekend, in an effort to prove to the nation that they are the new team to beat, as their No.1 ranking suggests. The Bulldogs won’t go down without a fight, however, as they’ll look to remind everyone who took down Notre Dame in last year’s championship game. This series has all the ingredients to be an absolute classic, which makes this rematch must-watch television.
Jack Brusco is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.