Right, so the game's in like three hours and there's a pretty decent chance that eight people will read this before the game, so I'm not going into full-on preview mode. Here's a quickie though:
1) Notre Dame comes in at 30-5-3 overall and 24-4-3-3 in the CCHA. They've lost just twice since opening their season at 2-3 with losses to Denver and two to Miami. Since then, Michigan and OSU are the only teams to knock them off--though Michigan was very close to sweeping them at the end of January and likely would have with remotely competent officiating.
2) Their offense is a surprising 9th in the country at 3.39 goals per game, but they've had an interesting go of it. Check these numbers out: 5 and 1, 5 and 2, 4 and 1, 9 and 5, 4 and 1, 1 and 3. Those are their weekend goal totals (Friday then Saturday) since late January. The Michigan series was the only time they scored more goals on Saturday than they did on Friday. And that was kick-aided. I don't know if that means that teams figure them out as the weekend goes on, if they think that Billy Sauer is playing for them on Saturday nights, if they get worn out, or if it's just a fluky thing that actually doesn't mean anything. And it may mean even less than that since we're only playing them once. I just thought it was interesting.
3) Clearly what makes this team go is their defense and goaltending. They have as good of a defense corps as any team in the country and they rank #1 in scoring defense at just 1.63 goals per game. Jordan Pearce has a 1.60/.934 and is 29-5-3 with a nation-leading 8 shutouts. I've said it before and I'll go ahead and say it again. I know he's got a great defense in front of him, but those are damn impressive numbers. If I had a Hobey vote, I'm not so sure that he wouldn't have gotten mine. I have no clue how he's not a finalist.
4) They're led offensively by senior Erik Condra, with a 13-25--38 line. Christian Hanson (Hey! Did you know that he's the son of the guy from Slapshot??!) leads the team with 16 goals, though he's massively cooled off and has just 3 in his last 16 contests. Calle Ridderwall has 15, with 11 of those on the PP. Billy Maday has 15 as well. They also get a pretty decent amount of offense from their blueliners. They've got three guys with 20+ points on the season: Ian Cole, Kyle Lawson and Brett Blatchford.
5) They're one of the least-penalized teams in the country at just 13.2 minutes per game. They have the top-ranked power play at 23.6% (and have allowed just 3 SHGs) and they've got the second-ranked penalty kill at 89.5%. It's interesting (to me) that of the top 16 penalty killing teams in the country, only FYS had no shot at making the tournament. Everyone else was in the mix, either via their record or by performing in the conference tournament. By the way, Michigan's penalty kill has risen all the way up to #5 nationally. Far cry from where they were at the start of the year.
It's a shame that there isn't more riding on this game. Notre Dame pretty much has the trip to Grand Rapids sewn up, and Michigan will likely end up the #4 overall seed regardless of what happens. It should be a pretty entertaining hockey game, though. It's always fun to see two top teams do battle and these are two of the three best teams in the country. It wouldn't shock me a bit if this isn't the last time these clubs see each other this season.