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What to Watch For During Notre Dame Hockey's Opening Weekend vs. Wisconsin

Notre Dame and Wisconsin are set to square off in South Bend for the opening weekend series of the 2020-21 season.
Notre Dame Hockey

Photo: Quinn Harris/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Series Preview

In a shortened 2019-20 season, the Notre Dame hockey team finished with an overall record of 15-15-7 and 9-9-6 in Big Ten Conference games. They averaged a mere 2.5 goals per game while allowing 2.6. The Irish hope that a few of their returning players can step up and provide more offense.

Wisconsin, despite having a plethora of skilled players, finished the 2019-20 season with a losing record of 14-20-2 while going 7-15-2 in Big Ten play. Their high-powered offense produced over three goals per game, but their defensive play struggled while allowing nearly four goals against.

Notre Dame and Wisconsin played four times during the 2019-20 season, with each team winning a pair of games.

With a long summer between seasons, it will be interesting to see what level of play these two teams bring this weekend. Wisconsin still has the firepower up front with players such as Cole Caufield and Dylan Holloway. On the flip side, three of the four top scorers for the Irish last season are no longer on the team as well as their former starting goaltender, Cale Morris.

Expect the Badgers to get their scoring chances while Notre Dame relies on its stout defense to keep the games close.

Players to Watch

Colin Theisen - Notre Dame

Senior Colin Theisen is Notre Dame's top returning goal scorer. He is one of just five seniors on the team and will need to continue to produce offense, which he is more than capable of. Theisen has yet to be drafted by an NHL team, so he will undoubtedly want to make an impact right away.

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Spencer Stastney - Notre Dame

On the back end, there is no player more important than Spencer Stastney for the Irish. As the 131st overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft by the Nashville Predators, Stastney also represented Team USA at the 2020 World Junior Championships. He dished out 20 assists in 36 games last season and is poised to have an even better season in his junior year.

Cole Caufield - Wisconsin

Cole Caufield is already a household name. Selected 15th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, Caufield is coming off a season in which he averaged a point per game. He is one of the most skilled players in the country and is a threat to find the back of the net every time he is on the ice. There's no question Caufield will continue to produce offensively and put together another big season in 2020-21.

Dylan Holloway - Wisconsin

Dylan Holloway is a name you should become familiar with very soon. As the 14th overall pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, Holloway has a year under his belt and is ready to explode in his sophomore season. The 6-foot-1, 200 lb center is a force on the ice and is still improving. Expect him to play a major role in Wisconsin's success as he looks to improve on his 17-point freshman season.

Both teams want to start off on the right foot to open the 2020-21 season. Expect physical play right away from both teams while Wisconsin's offense looks to pick up right where it left off last season.

The puck drops on Notre Dame's season Friday night at 6 PM CT. You can tune in on NBCSN.