MARQUETTE - The Berry Events Center in Marquette will play host to a pair of nationally ranked hockey teams when Notre Dame visits Northern Michigan University at 7:35 p.m. on Friday and Saturday in what will be the final opening weekend in the 41-year history of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
The Wildcats (3-1), who will moved to the WCHA after this season, come in ranked No. 16 in the USCHO.com Top 20 rankings and No. 15 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Top 15 poll following a split at Nebraska-Omaha.
The Fighting Irish (3-1), who will join Hockey East next season, are ranked No. 9 in both polls after splitting with No. 14 Minnesota-Duluth. The week before, the Irish topped Maine and UNO in the Kansas City Icebreaker tournament.
Northern Michigan University forward Erik Higby (26) brings the puck up out of the Wildcats’ own zone with Notre Dame’s Anders Lee (9) on his tail during a CCHA game last season on Nov. 4, 2011, at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. (Journal file photo by Matt Keiser)
Notre Dame, picked to finish first in the CCHA during the preseason by the league's 11 coaches, has been led offensively by junior center T.J. Tynan's two goals and two assists while junior center and captain Anders Lee has a goal and three assists.
Both have seven career points against the Wildcats - three goals for Tynan and two for Lee - but a Lee assist was the lone point a year ago when the Wildcats won a pair of shootouts against the Irish following 2-2 and 1-1 ties in Marquette.
"Lee is a big, strong 230-pound guy with a great shot, great nose for the net," NMU head coach Walt Kyle said. "He's real difficult to contain from the top of the circles down.
"Tynan is a guy who is certainly smaller, but great hands, great vision, good speed and really deceptive when the puck is on his stick."
Neither game last year featured the two highly-touted junior goaltenders slated to do battle this weekend in Notre Dame's Steven Summerhays and Northern's Jared Coreau, who both split time with veterans a year ago.
After four games, Coreau is sporting a .913 save percentage and 2.38 goals against average that is hampered by the five goals he let in during the Friday-night loss in Omaha. Only four pucks have beaten him in the Wildcats' three wins.
Summerhays has already seen 100 shots - Coreau's seen 94 - and has a save percentage of .943 and goals against average of 1.51, which is boosted by his season-opening shutout of Maine.
"It should be a great battle between those two," Kyle said. "I think Summerhays and Jared, there are a lot of similarities between hose guys - not necessarily in their style of play - but how their career has been.
"I think it will be a real challenge for Jared to match him."
Offensively for Northern, senior center Matt Thurber is leading the 'Cats points-wise with a goal and four assists. Three players have two goals, including sophomore wings Reed Seckel and Ryan Daugherty, plus freshman Cohen Adair.
NMU has picked up goals from three of its freshman so far. In addition to Adair's two goals against Wisconsin, center Darren Nowick and wing Ryan Aynsley scored in Omaha.
NMU finished 11-4-5 last season at the Berry Events Center and is 9-9-4 all time against the Irish in Marquette.
That home record against Notre Dame mimics how the rest of the all-time series stands at 22-22-8 overall, 11-11-4 in South Bend and 2-2-0 on neutral ice.
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.