College Hockey Series of the Week: Boston College vs. Notre Dame
As the weather outside turns cold, the college hockey world is really heating up as No. 9 Notre Dame (8-4-2) will take on No. 10 Boston College (9-4) in a split-series with one game taking place at Conte Forum on BC's Chestnut Hill campus and one game being held at Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend, Indiana.
Tradition runs deep for Boston College as the Eagles have won five national titles with the most recent being in 2012. They have also made the Frozen Four 25 times alongside the NCAA Tournament 35 times. However, BC has missed the tournament over the past three seasons.
Jerry York’s squad is desperately trying to get back into the national spotlight and a sweep against the Fighting Irish would definitely increase those chances.
BC’s offense ranks eighth in the country, averaging 3.53 goals per game and the duo of Carolina Hurricanes prospect David Cotton and Julius Mattila lead the way. The two have combined for 10 goals, 23 assists and 33 points through 13 games and have been reliable weapons thus far.
Edmonton Oilers prospect Aapeli Räsänen is the current leader in the goals category with seven and is third in points with 15. In addition, Alex Newhook is another player with a lot of upside as he was drafted No. 16 overall in this past year’s NHL Draft by the Colorado Avalanche.
Jesper Mattila, Julius’s twin brother, is one of the steadiest defensemen on the roster. Although he doesn’t light up the stat sheet, his ability to skate up and down the ice with high IQ pays dividends. His plus-minus rating of plus-11 is the highest on the team and Ben Finkelstein is another defenseman to watch out for.
Spencer Knight has been a godsend for Boston College in net this season as his impact cannot be expressed into enough words. The 2019 first-round selection of the Florida Panthers has started every game while recording a goals-against average of 1.92 and a save percentage of .934, which ranks him 12th in the country.
Notre Dame is right in the running for yet another Big Ten championship. However, they have been a bit inconsistent in regards to being hot then immediately going cold.
Since Nov. 15, The Fighting Irish are 1-4-1 and have gotten swept by Bowling Green. Although Bowling Green isn’t a pushover, Notre Dame getting swept is an extremely rare sight and it all begins with their goaltending.
Cale Morris has been one of the best goaltenders in all of college hockey for the past few years, but he hasn’t been playing like it in 10 games he has played in.
In those appearances, Morris has underwhelmed tremendously as he surrendered 26 goals with a save percentage of .905 and a goals-against average of 2.63. It seems like his 1.94 goals-against average and .944 save percentage from the 2017-2018 is a distant memory now.
Notre Dame’s offense, on the other hand, has picked up its pace as compared to years past. Jeff Jackson’s club sits at No. 17 in scoring with 3.17 goals per game with quite a bit of diversity.
Mike O’Leary leads the Irish in goals and points with seven and 16 respectively. Cal Burke and Cam Morrison each have 10 assists and have combined for 27 points as well.
“The Holy War on Ice” returns as the Eagles lead the tightly contested series 22-20-2 and the two sides first met back in 1969. There is a lot on the line for both teams as they both want to head into the new calendar year on the right foot.
College hockey fans will be salivating over this series as two perennial giants will duke it out as one program has found recent success, whereas the other is trying to bring itself back to the top.
Notre Dame’s goaltending will be the biggest question in this series and if BC can penetrate the net while being smart in the offensive zone, they should have the ability to pull the sweep.
The Fighting Irish desperately needs a win to get momentum back on their side after a disastrous 6-game stretch. Both teams will use physicality and there could be free hockey in play here too. Expect the home team in each of these games to come out on top.
Prediction: 1-1 split
Game 1: Boston College 3, Notre Dame 2 (OT)
Game 2: Notre Dame 4, Boston College 3
Christopher Hess is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.