For the second time in less than a week, Notre Dame Stadium will play host to a hockey game. This time, though, the game will feature the home team. The sixth-ranked Fighting Irish (12-5-1) will face Michigan (6-7-6) in a Big Ten Conference showdown at 4:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon. Of course, playing a hockey game outdoors is always tricky thanks to Mother Nature.
Fortunately, She will play nice for this particular game. Temperatures will be friendly to not only those in attendance, but the players and ice as well. High temps will reach 46° or so just before the puck drops. They will fall into the upper 30s by the end of the game. With temperatures in 40s, the ice should fair pretty well. Stoppages to smooth and adjust the ice are bound to occur with outdoor hockey games, and this will be no different. But any sort of "significant" melting will not be an issue.
Another factor that can complicate outdoor hockey games is cloud cover. The more clouds there are, the better the ice fairs. That's because the sun can aid in the melting of the ice, which can lead to soft, "snowy" conditions. The result of soft ice is slower skating speeds for players and more stoppage time for smoothing. Unfortunately, the afternoon hours of Saturday look entirely sunny. This could lead to the need for a little extra maintenance before puck drop as temps rise into the upper 40s. However, with the game not starting until 4:30 p.m., the sun should pose minimal to no problems during the game itself.
It will be low in the sky and setting in the southwest. That means by game time, there shouldn't be any sunlight actually hitting the ice inside Notre Dame Stadium. Fans in the east stands will have the sun in their eyes for perhaps an hour or so, but that would be about it. One other variable to consider is wind speed. Wind can play a role in outdoor hockey games, and there is a good chance wind gusts will reach 20 mph or so by 4:30 p.m. While the effects of gusty winds won't be extreme due to the stadium "blocking" some of the strongest gusts, there can be some issues with game play. It's something the officials will have to monitor throughout the game.