7 p.m. Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday vs. Notre Dame • Mariucci Arena • TV; radio: ESPN2 on Fri., FSN Plus on Sat.; 1130-AM, 103.5-FM

Irish goalie among nation's best

Preview: The Gophers (15-12-1, 6-9-1-1 Big Ten) righted their ship with a pair of one-goal victories over last-place Michigan State last week, but they face a more difficult challenge this weekend with a visit from top-ranked Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish (19-4-1, 13-1) have all but clinched the Big Ten regular-season title, with a 14-point lead over second-place Ohio State. Notre Dame suffered its first Big Ten loss of the season on Sunday, falling 5-0 to Wisconsin at Chicago's United Center. During Thanksgiving weekend, the Irish swept the Gophers 1-0 and 5-2 in South Bend. Notre Dame has won three straight against Minnesota, eliminating the Gophers in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year with a 3-2 victory in which the Irish trailed 2-0.

Players to watch: Gophers forward Brent Gates is coming off a four-point series against Michigan State. He scored the winner with 3:29 left in the third period in the Gophers' 2-1 victory on Saturday at Madison Square Garden. Gophers captain Tyler Sheehy had two goals and an assist in last Thursday's 5-4 win at Michigan State, giving him 101 points for his career. … Notre Dame goalie Cale Morris ranks first nationally in save percentage (.951) and third in goals-against average (1.67). Forward Jake Evans leads Notre Dame in scoring (8 goals, 21 assists, 29 points), followed by Andrew Oglevie (10-10—20) and Maple Grove's Jordan Gross (5-13—18).

By the numbers: Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson is 9-5 all-time against Minnesota. … The Irish are giving up 2.04 goals per game, which ranks third nationally. … The Gophers struggling power play (51st nationally at 13.7 percent) faces a Notre Dame penalty kill that ranks seventh (86.6 percent).

Randy Johnson