When this year's schedule was first announced, most expected the non-conference match-up between Minnesota and Notre Dame to be a match-up of two pretty good teams. According to this week's national poll, it will be a game between the top two teams in the country. Though the Gophers have an advantage in the polls, Notre Dame currently sits 4th in the Pairwise rankings, while Minnesota is 6th, so this game could give the winner an inside track at a number one seed in the NCAA tournament.
But there's more story lines tonight than just #1facing off against #2. Notre Dame has made a point of recruiting out of the Twin Cities metro area, and this game will be a homecoming of sorts for a few Notre Dame players, including leading scorer Anders Lee, senior Nick Larson, freshman Steven Fogarty, and perhaps most significantly, Mario Lucia, son of Minnesota head coach Don Lucia, who will be facing off against his dad for the first time. Given Notre Dame's interest in recruiting in the Minnesota-area, including stealing prized recruit Connor Hurley from the Gophers recently, a good performance would only help their reputation in the area.
Notre Dame has run away with the CCHA this year,with a near perfect 10-1-0 record, but is a relatively modest 4-3-0 in non-conference play, including a win against Nebraska-Omaha, and splits with WCHA opponents Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota. Minnesota, meanwhile, sits in sixth place in the WCHA after being a near unanimous pick to win the league in the preseason, but is an impressive 7-0-0 in non-conference play, including a recent win over Boston College.
The two teams will face off at 7:07 CST at Minnesota's Mariucci Arena.The game will be televised on Fox Sports North+. Our Nate Wells will be at Mariucci tonight covering the game. Follow him on Twitter (@gopherstate) for updates.