|| #7 Michigan (22-14-3) vs
#2 Notre Dame(25-9-2)
||Ann Arbor Elder Law Center
St. Paul, MN
||Notre Dame 67% (KRACH)
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Michigan's opponent is an extremely familiar one: Notre Dame. The teams split the season series 2-2, with an early January Notre Dame sweep followed by Michigan's mid-February riposte. The first series saw Michigan play the then-#1 team in the country dead even, setting up their second half run. The second took Michigan's chances for a tourney bid from distantly possible to all but assured.
One thing this game is certain to be is tight. Tight checking, tight on the scoreboard, tight-sphinctered. Three of the four games were decided by one goal; the fourth was a 4-2 win at Yost. Shot totals from the four games were similarly narrow. After Michigan outshot ND 36-27 in the first game it was a dead heat the rest of the way: 34-36, 36-36, 37-35. There was only a bit more wobble in shot attempts, with two very even games and one decisive win by each team. Michigan had a very slight edge in attempts from the house per Dave's charting.
Might be worth noting that Michigan was missing Josh Norris and Quinn Hughes from the first of the four games, as both were coming off the WJCs. Adding them did not give Michigan a decisive advantage—the game they missed was in fact Michigan's best from a shot perspective—but this Hughes is not that Hughes.
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Notre Dame is a relentlessly disciplined outfit that relies more on structure and reliability than pew-pew lasers. They've split their top two scorers across two lines, which has been a positive for Michigan since their second unit of Norris-Slaker-Warren is a bunch of two-way players that Michigan sought to match against the Greenway/Tkachuk monster line BU put out.
Top scorer Jake Evans, a senior and 7th round pick, has 11-31-42 on the year. This scouting report on Evans from before last year's Frozen Four is also Notre Dame in a nutshell:
Jake Evans, Jr., C - It takes watching the Montreal Canadiens prospect in all three zones to truly appreciate the impact he has on a game. His 13 goals and 28 assists for 41 points ranks third on the Irish, but it's his complete play as a two-way center that makes him truly special. He is good on draws and responsible throughout the 200 feet of the ice sheet. He does a terrific job of engaging, lifting sticks and disrupting shooting and passing lanes. He is very hard to play against.
He's flanked by sophomore Cam Morrison (8-13-21, second round pick) and freshman Colin Theisen (6-13-19); Morrison is a power forward type who hasn't quite been the scorer ND probably hoped he'd be after a USHL PPG as a 17-year-old.
Line 1A features Cal Burke (13-12-25), the only ND player with double-digit even strength goals, and Andrew Oglevie (13-23-36), their top PP scorer and leading shooter amongst forwards. Dylan Malmquist is an infrequent shooter benefiting from some puck luck to get up to 9-10-19.
It gets thin for ND after their top two lines; the third line has one guy with double-digit points on the season, and the fourth line is actually two guys you'll probably see for five minutes tops; ND has dressed 7 defensemen for most of the season.
As you might imagine for a defensively oriented team, ND's blue line is excellent. Senior Jordan Gross (10-18-28) picks up a bunch of the slack that the middling forward corps leaves when it comes to scoring; while he's not super-dynamic he's got an excellent, accurate point shot and picks his spots well. Andrew Peeke, Matt Hellickson, and Dennis Gilbert are all draftees, and junior Bobby Nardella has an impressive 5-19-24 line.
Taking advantage of scanty opportunities will be crucial, whether that's a power play or an incredibly rare odd-man rush. That goes for both teams. There aren't going to be a lot of Grade A chances out there.
"Stay out of the box" remains so imperative that you might as well get it tattooed on the inside of your eyelids. ND's power play is 10th nationally at 23%, which is bad for Michigan's #57 penalty kill. On the bright side, ND-Michigan games were relatively clean this year. Michigan averaged three (attempted) kills per game instead of the 4 they averaged across the season. Playoff hockey tends to depress calls, which helped Michigan as they faced just four PPs in the regionals.
The other bright reason why "stay out of the box" is so imperative: Notre Dame has just one even strength goal against Michigan this year. Their shooting percentage almost doubles from 7.7 to 14.2 when they get on the power play.
The other side of the coin isn't much more encouraging: ND's penalty kill keeps the puck out of the net 89% of the time, which is second nationally. The disparity is so big here that Michigan getting hauled down without a call early might actually be a good sign if it signals that the whistles will be rare. As much 5v5 as possible, thanks.
Cale Morris leads the country with a .945 save percentage, so they've got that going for them. Morris is undrafted, got just one game a year ago, and had a .906 in his final year in the USHL, so maybe that's more about the team around him than his talent level?
Stay out of the box! ND isn't as good on the power play as Northeastern but the gap between their scoring rates is probably similar. ND struggles to put up goals at even strength, particularly against this Michigan team.
Quinn, again. Quinn Hughes is by far the best player at this Frozen Four and his ability to jet into the zone and break up the usual monotony of cycling on the boards in the least threatening part of the offensive zone is a crucial advantage Michigan has over an ND team that's extremely adept at forcing dump-ins and making it hard to generate scoring opportunities afterwards. Hughes is now playing 25-30 minutes, during which Michigan should be killing it 5v5.
Hope ND's slide continues. ND's desire to win 2-1 every game worked out great until a couple months ago, when they started dropping a bunch of games. Since that Michigan series in early January ND finished the regular season 5-6-1; while they've gotten back on track in the postseason, their four wins have all been by one goal, two of them in overtime, in games that were dead even by shots. That 67% above from KRACH is bunk, I say.