Michigan is in town this weekend for all-time meetings No. 133 and 134 with the Irish hockey team. The Wolverines are Notre Dame’s oldest rival on the ice, but when and where meeting No. 135 will take place is still yet to be determined.
Notre Dame hosts Michigan this weekend for the last time as CCHA rivals.
Unless they meet in the postseason, this weekend will be the final time the two teams play each other as conference opponents. Notre Dame departs for the Hockey East next fall, while Michigan joins the new Big Ten hockey conference. Both sides hope to play in the future, but haven’t been able to work out a time and a place at this point.
“I’ll be very disappointed if we don’t play Michigan in the future in hockey,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “I have a lot of respect for [Michigan head coach] Red Berenson and that program. We have a really good thing going with them. Right now they’re the ones that aren’t all that anxious to get involved in it, and I’m sure that has to do with other sports.”
Jackson and his players agreed that the Michigan rivalry always provides a little extra energy when they play. The coach said he won’t be worried about getting his team ready to play physical against the Wolverines this weekend.
Junior Mike Voran, who grew up cheering for Michigan in Livonia, Mich., about 30 minutes outside of Ann Arbor, says these are the games he most looks forward to all year.
“I grew up in a family who loves the maize and blue,” he said. “I’ve gladly switched over to Notre Dame, but I always have a little extra energy in those games because you want to win it that bad.”
Voran played for the first time in a month during last weekend's series against Ohio State. His first night back was cut short Friday by a hitting from behind penalty at the end of the first period that got him ejected from the game.
Jackson thought the punishment for Voran’s hit was a little too severe, but that doesn’t change the fact that Notre Dame has had a problem with undisciplined penalties for much of the second half of the season. The Buckeyes scored three goals during the five-minute power play that followed Voran’s hit, which carried them to a comfortable 6-3 win.
Poorly timed penalties cost the Irish a handful of momentum-turning moments during a major skid in January. Frustration from a five-game losing streak began to boil over, which led to some unnecessary calls.
Notre Dame’s discipline will be tested with weekend in a series that usually becomes physical and intense shortly after the puck drops — a “spirited contest” is what junior forward Jeff Costello called it. In other words, there will be plenty of trash-talking and finishing of checks.
“That’s what I define as spirited, some others might not agree,” said Costello, one of the team’s most physical forwards.
Notre Dame (16-11-1, 12-7-1 in CCHA) enters the weekend hanging on to third place in the league standings. Michigan (10-16-2, 7-13-2 in CCHA) started the year as a top-five team nationally, but currently sits in eighth place in the conference after a rough start to the season.
Friday night’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:35 p.m. at Compton Family Ice Arena and will be televised by CBS Sports Network.