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Wisconsin vs. Notre Dame: Keys to the series

How can the Badgers have a successful weekend against the Fighting Irish?

Syndication: Journal Sentinel Ebony Cox / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Disclaimer: This article has been written and submitted by Taylor Valentine, who will help cover Badgers hockey.

The Wisconsin Badgers welcome the golden domers to Madison for a weekend series on February 9 and 10. The two teams met just after the new year in South Bend, with the Badgers sweeping the Irish in both a defensive struggle and an offensive explosion.

First-year Wisconsin Head Coach Mike Hastings’ squad sits five points behind Michigan State in the Big Ten and needs a strong showing to keep pace as the season enters the home stretch.

What can the Badgers do to repeat their success against the Irish a month ago? Well…

1. Be aggressive on the counterattack

Despite sweeping the series last month, No. 4 Wisconsin (20-6-2 overall, 11-4-1 B1G) was outshot in both games, including a 7-4 victory where they were outshot 45-33.

Notre Dame (14-12-2 overall, 8-8-2 B1G) likes to get the puck toward the net, making it imperative for the Badger defense to clear the puck and get out of the defensive zone.

As great as senior all-world goaltender Kyle McClellan has been between the pipes all year, getting out on the break and applying pressure with the counterattack will keep the netminder fresh and ideally avoid asking him to make too many big saves.

2. Win the middle period

The Badgers controlled the opening and closing periods in their last meetings, but it was Notre Dame who tilted the ice in the second.

Wisconsin built a 5-1 lead in the closing game last month before McClellan was pulled in a rare move after giving up three unanswered second-period goals.

The Irish dominated their offensive zone and registered 20 shots in the period while attempting to mount a comeback.

If the Badgers can give the home crowd something to cheer about in the middle period and avoid finding themselves playing on their heels they will have a much easier route toward closing the game out in the third.

3. Control the circles

Both teams rank near the top of the country in faceoff win percentage, with Notre Dame entering the series fifth (54.9 percent) and Wisconsin a spot behind (54.7 percent).

Everyone knows the best defense is a good offense, and each team likes to earn extra possessions in the faceoff circle.

Defensive zone faceoffs will be especially critical if Wisconsin wants to limit Notre Dame’s ability to run set pieces off the draw and keep the pressure off McClellan. Controlling the circles can help tilt the ice in Wisconsin’s favor.

Game Info

The action kicks off Friday at the Kohl Center with puck drop slated for 7 p.m. Follow live on B1G+ or tune in at 1310 WIBA.

Game 1

Date: Friday, February 9

Time: 7 p.m.

Place: Madison, WI / Kohl Center

TV: B1G+ Radio: 1310 WIBA

Game 2

Date: Saturday, February 10

Time: 6 p.m.

Place: Madison, WI / Kohl Center

TV: B1G+ Radio: 1310 WIBA