During the final few weeks of fall and the first few weeks of winter, the Notre Dame hockey team went to battle on its non-conference slate followed by the start of Big Ten play. Despite experiencing thrilling wins against Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin, head coach Jeff Jackson’s group also saw a few too many losses for its liking. Based on the team’s performance by the season’s midpoint, questions remained as to whether the Irish were at the level necessary to compete in the Frozen Four for the third consecutive year.
The team’s consecutive wins began with their strong performance against three schools in Michigan. The Irish came back strong against the Wolverines of the University of Michigan after losing to them the night before. From there, the team journeyed to Michigan State and defeated the Spartans twice. Afterwards, they returned home and awaited Northern Michigan. With a decisive win over the Wildcats, Irish fans hoped that they would once more become a dominant team this season.
Then came the month of December. Initially, the Irish sealed two victories over the Engineers of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Afterwards, they traveled to Penn State, hoping to tame the Lions. They were successful in the series opener, but the Lions stormed back the following night and handed Notre Dame a crushing 9-1 loss.
The Irish returned home, hoping to recover from the less-than-optimal trip to State College. At first, it seemed the Irish were back on top after shutting out the Eagles of Boston College on Dec. 31. Just as they had begun their win streak by beating the Wolverines earlier in the season, they hoped to beat them once more during their third showdown of the season, this time on the ice rink within Notre Dame Stadium. Unfortunately, the Wolverines successfully sought their revenge. Moreover, the Gophers of Minnesota proved their dominance over the Irish twice, giving Notre Dame a 1-3 record in its four-game homestand to begin 2019. Nevertheless, the team moved on from the series of losses and beat Wisconsin twice, once in Madison and once in Chicago’s United Center (though officially counted a draw for Big Ten standings).
Now, the team needs to prepare for the Big Ten Conference Championship series, which will begin on March 8. If the Irish can win out and be named conference champions, a spot in the NCAA Tournament — and perhaps, down the line, a third consecutive berth in the Frozen Four — is theirs. If they fail to capture the title as conference champions, then they will have to be selected with an at-large spot. Currently sitting at 14-10-3 with seven regular-season games remaining, the Irish will look to pick up some momentum over the final weeks of the regular season.