Jostling for position to make the NCAA Tournament field, No. 15 Notre Dame hosts No. 10 Providence for a two-game home series this weekend. Both games will be telecast by the NBC Sports Network, with tonight’s face-off at 7:35 p.m. ET and Saturday’s at 7:05 p.m. ET.
The Fighting Irish are 3-0-1 in their last two series, but the Friars — who won the national title in 2015 — have been on a tear, winning nine straight games and sweeping each of their last four series. They have lost only twice since Dec. 3. Last season, Providence swept the Notre Dame series at Schneider Arena, with game one going into overtime.
So much is on the line this weekend:
• It is the final regular season home series for head coach Jeff Jackson’s crew. Saturday will be Senior Night, which will honor Chad Katunar and Ben Ostile.
• In the 12-team Hockey East, Notre Dame and UMass Lowell are currently tied for third place at 23 points apiece. Notre Dame is 10-5-3 in league play (two points for a win, one for a tie), with Providence right behind at 22 (10-6-2). Boston College (27) and Boston U. (24) are 1-2.
The top four teams get a first-round bye in the Hockey East Tournament that begins in March, and then host the quarterfinal series.
• More significant than the USCHO.com rankings are the PairWise rankings that play a significant role in determining the 16-team NCAA Tournament field. Currently, the Irish (17-9-4 overall) would be considered just outside “the bubble” with a No. 18 ranking and 42 points. Providence is No. 8 with 51 points.
Next week Notre Dame’s opponent, Boston U., is No. 5 with 55 points.
Without making hay in these final two series versus the Friars and Terriers, the Irish chances of making the NCAA Tournament field will be slim. Notre Dame has made the tourney three of the past four seasons but has not won a game there since advancing to the Frozen Four in 2011.
Speaking of which, tonight’s game will also honor and commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the 2006-07 team that finished with the best record in college hockey (32-7-3) under second-year coach Jackson two years after having the worst (5-27-6). That was the first Notre Dame hockey team to win a conference title and tournament, and the first to win an NCAA Tournament game (it would advance to the national championship game the following year, which it lost to Boston College).
• During Notre Dame’s current four-game unbeaten streak, 11 players have recorded at least two points and 16 have at least one point. The Irish have scored 15 goals from 10 players over the last four games, with sophomore Andrew Oglevie’s four leading the way.
• Oglevie has 33 points (18 goals, 15 assists) through 30 games, which ties him for eighth in Hockey East and tied for 19th in the country (his 18 goals are tied for fourth in Hockey East). He has scored six goals in the past five games.
• Leading scorer and junior Anders Bjork has 17 goals and 23 assists for 40 points. Bjork is the first Irish player to reach the 40-point plateau since 2014-15, when Vince Hinostroza (11-33-44) and Robbie Russo (15- 26-41) both did so.
• Junior goaltender Cal Petersen has started 80 consecutive games, which is tied for the fifth-longest streak in NCAA Division I history, and one game short of No. 4.
• With 26 points (eight goals, 18 assists), junior defenseman Jordan Gross ranks fourth in Hockey East and is tied for sixth in the country in defensemen scoring. His eight goals are also tied for sixth nationally.
• Notre Dame’s .552, faceoff winning percentage is No. 2 in the country. Junior forward Jake Evans ranks second in Hockey East and seventh in the country in faceoff winning percentage with a .609 mark.
• This week’s Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week, sophomore Dennis Gilbert, has nine assists over the last nine games.
• On the health front, sophomore Joe Wegwerth was injured versus Vermont (Feb. 3) and has been sidelined indefinitely with a lower body injury.
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