In light of the facts that my hotel in Denver has internet and that I think I've fixed my laptop to the point that it will consistently turn on, I'm going to hold off on the North Dakota and Boston College previews. If Michigan beats Notre Dame, then I'll write a preview of the team we're playing either on Thursday night or early Friday.
Here are 10 things to know about Michigan's opponent in the national semifinal, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish:
1) The Irish have had an interesting season to say the least. They got off to a great start (winning 9 in a row at one point) and at the time of our previous series with them, they were ranked #8 in the country and were right behind us and Miami in the CCHA standings. After the following week's sweep of Bowling Green, the bottom fell out. In the 13 games after the sweep of BGSU but before the NCAA Tournament, the Irish went 4-6-3 and scored just 25 goals. In the last 21 games of the season, ND scored just 43 goals. Then the NCAA Tournament started and the Irish hung 10 goals in their next two games and knocked out the Hockey East Champion and the defending National Champions to make the Frozen Four for the first time in their history.
2) Good wins: New Hampshire, Denver (split), Miami (split), MSU (1-1-1 with the win coming in the NCAA Tournament)
Bad Losses: Ohio State, Western Michigan, UMass
Non-Conference results: Beat Mercyhurst, Denver, RPI (twice), UAH, Princeton (twice). Lost to Wisconsin, Denver, and UMass
3) Jordan Pearce is good. He won the CCHA goaltending title for lowest GAA and is 22-14-4 on the season with a 1.95/.917. Reminder: He was not in net when Michigan beat ND 5-1 at the Palace. Brad Phillips played, got chased, and then Pearce stopped all ten shots he faced in the remainder of the game. He has given up more than three goals just four times all season (Wisconsin, UNO, Ferris, UMass) and has given up three goals just twice in his last 14 appearances. Good goalie and he's playing well right now.
4) They'll be solid in net. The bigger question mark is the offense. Erik Condra and his 38 points, 6 PPGs, 3 SHG, and 4 GWGs are gone for the season. The next leading scorer on the team is Ryan Thang with 17-13--30 in 45 games. Condra's absence leaves them with four 10+ goal scorers and seven with 20+ points, but no one in the top 100 in points per game (or even close to the top 100--the cutoff is .82 and the top remaining Irish player is at .67). They don't get huge points out of their defensemen, but they do get goals. Kyle Lawson, Ian Cole, and Dan VeNard all have 5+ tallies on the season, and Lawson, Cole, and Ruth all scored in the West Regional.
5) Notre Dame is 19th in the country in offense with 2.89 goals per game (obviously that takes a bit of a hit with Condra gone). They're #5 defensively, just a tick behind Michigan at 2.04 goals per game. Actually three of the four Frozen Four teams are in the top 5 in team defense (Boston College - 14). They've really struggled on the power play and it ranks just 33rd in the country at 15.4%. Despite at least three games with multiple PPGs down the stretch and in the tournament, they're just 13 of their last 88. They've also allowed six short-handed goals on the season. The Irish, as you would expect, are very good on the PK, #2 to Miami at 89.6%. They popped in 8 shorties, though three were by Condra.
6) Don't count on winning any faceoffs. The Irish are a fantastic faceoff team, having won 56% on the year. Both Regan and Hanson are above 60% and the worst percentage that any of their faceoff men has is Justin White's 52.4%.
7) Michigan would probably be wise to score 5 on 5, as the Irish don't take many penalties. Only Alaska had fewer minutes in the box than the Irish. Notre Dame, at 13.3 minutes per game, is about four minutes below Michigan's average.
8) Random facts: Notre Dame Head Coach Jeff Jackson has won two national championships (both with LSSU). Notre Dame is the first #4 seed to make the Frozen Four in the 16-team tournament era.
9) With Condra gone, the top performer on Notre Dame against the Wolverines is Garrett Regan with a 4-2--6 line in seven games. Kevin Deeth and Brett Blatchford each have five points in five games. Blatchford's name being on this list is surprising, since he's pretty far down the team scoring list. He has five points in five games against Michigan and 24 points in 68 games against everyone else. Jordan Pearce is 0-2-0 with a 2.93/.896 against Michigan.
10) Kolarik and Porter have been Irish killers in their careers. Porter has 10-7--17 in 13 games against Notre Dame and Kolarik has scored 11-6--17 in 13 games, with seven of those goals on the power play. Caporusso has goals in both games he's played against ND. Travis Turnbull has also done very well, with a 3-5--8 line in seven contests.
I would put a lot more stock in the Michigan/ND game at Yost than the game at the Palace the next night. By all accounts, Brad Phillips was terrible in net and the ice was awful. While Notre Dame has had some trouble putting the puck in the net, they played a really great game against Michigan at Yost. Upon further review, I would go as far as to say that was the best game a team has played against Michigan the entire season, and that's including the teams that beat us.
Condra's absence will be a big blow, but they've done pretty well without him thusfar. The Irish did a nice job against our top line earlier in the year, but I'm curious to see how they'll do with Max Pacioretty back in the lineup. I like Tim Miller a lot, but he's definitely no Pacioretty.
Pearce played well against us this year, but gave up a bunch of rebounds in Friday night's game and the Wolverines had a few golden opportunities that they didn't cash in on (though I could say the same about ND).
No prediction out of me on this one. I'm sure you all know who I think will (and should) win, but you just never know in a one-and-done. Even my subconscious is conflicted. My teams have a horrible track record when I dream about a victory before the game and they've got a great track record when I dream about a loss. What happened last night? I had two Michigan/Notre Dame dreams; a 3-0 win and a 5-1 loss. If we get the first goal, I'll be feeling very good about our chances.
I will offer up a prediction on BC/NoDak, however. Close game, but I think NoDak has a pretty decent edge in net, and JPL will be the difference in a 3-1 North Dakota win.
My relevant articles about the Michigan/ND games this season:
The original Ten Things to Know About Notre Dame
Initial reaction to the 3-2 win
Going Upstairs: 3-2 win
Charlie from WOLV-TV has his take on the Frozen Four
NDGoon points out that the Miami Student is bitching once again (hahahahahahahaha)
WCBN's blog offers up a Frozen Four preview
MHNet has some great clips of Turco from 1998's NCAA Semifinal (ewww)
Varsity Blue completes their five part series about Yost
Now? I'm off to Denver. Go Blue!