2016 NCAA Tournament: Hot Northeastern faces UND, old CCHA foes renew rivalry in Midwest Regional

By DJ Powers

Kyle Connor - University of Michigan

Photo: University of Michigan forward and Winnipeg Jets prospect Kyle Connor is nine points ahead of teammate JT Compher in both team scoring and in the NCAA (courtesy of Dave Reginek/Getty Images)

 

#3 University of Notre Dame vs. #2 University of Michigan
TV: ESPNU at 5:30 PM EDT

 

Two former CCHA foes meet again this year as members of different conferences. This is a rematch of the 2008 Frozen Four semi-final, their only other NCAA Tournament meeting. Michigan and Notre Dame most recently met in the final CCHA Tournament championship game on Mar. 24th, 2013.

Michigan will be making their 36th NCAA Tournament appearance and first since 2012. The Wolverines are coming off of a sweep of Penn State and Minnesota respectively to claim their first Big Ten Tournament title.

No NCAA team has amassed more points this season than Michigan. The Wolverines have racked up 474 points and lead the nation with an offense that is averaging a whopping 4.89 goals per game.

It all begins with their dynamic all-prospects “CCM” line of freshman Kyle Connor (WPG), and juniors J.T. Compher (COL) and Tyler Motte (CHI). The trio recently made history, becoming the first line to all be named as Hobey Baker Top Ten finalists. Connor, the Big Ten Player and Rookie of the Year, currently leads the nation in both goals (35) and points (69). Compher leads the nation in assists (46) and ranks second in points (60). Motte currently ranks fourth nationally with 54 points (31 goals, 23 assists). All three players have played in all 36 games to date.

Michigan also possesses great depth on the blueline. Leading the group is Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, sophomore Zach Werenski (CBJ). The Grosse Pointe, MI native currently ranks second nationally and leads all NHL-drafted defensemen with 34 points (10 goals, 24 assists).

Senior Steve Racine has given the Wolverines rock-solid goaltending since taking over the starting job at mid-season. The Williamsville, NY native sports a 19-5-3 record that includes one shutout in 29 appearances. He currently ranks fifth nationally with a .759 winning percentage.

After a one-year absence, Notre Dame returns to the NCAA Tournament. This year marks their eighth overall appearance. The well-rested Fighting Irish last played on Mar. 12th when they were swept by Northeastern in the Hockey East Tournament quarterfinals.

How the Fighting Irish will fare in the NCAA Tournament will depend a lot on the play of sophomore workhorse Cal Petersen (BUF). The Waterloo, IA native has started all 36 games this season, posting a record of 19-10-7. He currently leads the nation in percentage of time in goal (98.5).

Playing in front of Petersen is a predominantly young blueline that has played remarkably well this season. All-Hockey East Second Team selection Jordan Gross leads all Fighting Irish rearguards with 31 points (nine goals, 22 assists) in 36 games.

One of Notre Dame’s strengths this season has been their depth at center. The Fighting Irish have gotten excellent production out of their top three pivots in sophomores Jake Evans (MTL) and Connor Hurley (BUF), and senior Steven Fogarty (NYR). Evans currently leads the Fighting Irish with 25 assists and co-leads the team with 33 points. Hurley is currently tied for eighth on the team with 18 points (six goals, 12 assists). Fogarty ranks seventh on the team with 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists). Evans and Fogarty have played in all of Notre Dame’s 36 games, while Hurley has played in 35.

Northeast | East | Midwest | West

Follow DJ Powers on Twitter via @DJPowersHF

 

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