This weekend’s Catamount trip out to South Bend is the last time the Catamounts will meet the Fighting Irish in conference play. That’s a good thing, not just because it ruins the bus league thing Hockey East had going – the longest road trip, Maine to UConn, is only about five hours – but because Notre Dame never really fit.
That being said…these and the BC road trip in a couple weeks are the biggest games left on the schedule for UVM. Sure, UNH is somewhat of a rivalry, and sure, Merrimack always gives us fits, but BC and ND are directly competing with UVM in not just Hockey East, but the Pairwise.
The Irish currently sit one point behind UVM in the Hockey East standings with the same amount of games played, and sit in the tournament bubble at 21st in the Pairwise, nine spots behind the Catamounts. A home sweep by ND and the Cats go from a 3 seed to possibly out of the tournament; a road sweep by UVM could vault them back into the top 10 in the PWR.
In goal, the Fighting Irish are led by Buffalo Sabres prospect and NCAA single-game record holder for saves (87, set in 2015 playoffs in a 4OT marathon) Cal Petersen. Petersen has been a staple of my fantasy team this year and for good reason: his .923 save percentage is pretty solid, and he’s played every game for the team this year. His backup has played twenty minutes all season so we won’t bother discussing him. Petersen is good. End of story.
Defensively, Notre Dame is a pretty solid team. In terms of shot attempts against, they’ve conceded the 13th least with 1329. The team also gets offense from their blueline, with Jordan Gross producing 22 points, Bobby Nardella on 15, and Andrew Peeke and Dennis Gilbert on 11. They concede about 27 shots a game, but are overall solid, and the size of guys like Gilbert, Peeke (both 6-2), and Luke Ripley (6-4) could cause problems for a smaller skill team. They’re top ten in the country for goals against for a reason.
Their offense ain’t bad either – just two notches behind Vermont in the goals per game category, and they have the tenth most shot attempts in the nation. One of the top scorers in the country, Anders Bjork, leads the way for the offense, as he sits eighth in the country in points with 38. Slowing him down won’t stop the Notre Dame offense, as Andrew Oglevie and Jake Evans are posting more than twenty points each…but if the Cats can slow him down, it’s much more manageable.
Games are Friday and Saturday, both on NBCSN.
Let’s hope for two games that showcase how good this UVM team can be to a national audience.