Coming off an empty weekend on their schedule, the Minnesota Golden Gophers men’s hockey team looks to take their No. 1 ranking on the road to South Bend for a two-game series with No. 4 ranked Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish are hosting the Maroon and Gold for the first time on campus since 1980.
In that 1979-80 season, Minnesota head coach Don Lucia was a junior defenseman for the Fighting Irish and will coach against his alma mater for the second straight year. Lucia and the Gophers hosted Notre Dame last season at Mariucci Arena with Minnesota earning the 4-1 victory in the single-game series. At the time Minnesota was the No. 1 team in the country with Notre Dame holding down the No. 2 position.
Both teams are highly ranked once again and the Gophers are looking to stay undefeated on the year as they hold a 5-0-1 overall record.
On top of Lucia coaching against his former college, he will coach against his youngest son Mario for the second time in two years. The sophomore forward with the Fighting Irish has two goals and one assists on the season to date. Mario played in the contest at Mariucci last January and was a minus-three on the night.
Mario was coming off a strenuous World Junior Hockey Championships tournament in Russia where he helped the United States to a gold medal win over Sweden. With plenty of rest coming into this weekend’s series, Mario and the Irish will attempt to dethrone the nation’s top team.
Joining Mario on the Irish are a couple other local productions in Edina natives Steven Fogarty and Ben Ostlie. The trio of Minnesotans are apart of a strong pipeline of local talent to skate for the Irish over the years. Notre Dame also has a commitment from former Hornets forward Connor Hurley for next fall.
Minnesota offensively looks like they did not miss a beat after the loss of multiple players to early departure and graduation. The top two lines have been scoring at a high rate with the likes of Sam Warning and Kyle Rau — two juniors that can be relied on when needed for big goals.
The first game of the series is scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. CDT start time from Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend on Friday. The game will be broadcast on national television with coverage provided by the NBC Sports Network. Saturday’s series finale will be a 6:00 p.m. start; same arena, same broadcast network.
Prediction: Friday – Minnesota 4, Notre Dame 3. Saturday – Notre Dame 4, Minnesota 4. Another three point weekend keeps Minnesota at No. 1 for another week.