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Notre Dame to join Big Ten hockey conference in 2017-18

The Big Ten just got a little harder for the Buckeyes as Notre Dame will be leaving Hockey East.

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The No. 3 team in the consensus best hockey conference in America will be leaving to join the Big Ten hockey conference in 2017-18. And it's the team the Big Ten has always wanted...for football at least.

That's right: Notre Dame is finally going to become part of the Big Ten in at least some capacity starting in the 2017-18 season. The Fighting Irish are one of the powers of the Hockey East conference, that includes 2015-16 schools Boston College, Boston University, Providence and UMass-Lowell in addition to the tournament-bound Irish.

Notre Dame finished 15-5-2 in conference play and 19-10-7 overall with an overall +30 goal differential this season. They will immediately climb to the top of the projected Big Ten standings once they arrive, competing with Michigan, Minnesota and possibly even money-infused Penn State for No. 1 in the conference.

It would stand to reason that the Big Ten would look to add an eighth team to balance the conference -- if you have any good idea how to run a seven team conference tournament, you'd be the first. Arizona State is the hot name in hockey expansion as the Sun Devils are new to Division I hockey and have previously been rumored to be Big Ten expansion candidates.

Arizona is also one of hockey's newest hotbeds, producing the 2016 NHL Draft's likely No. 1 overall selection, Auston Matthews. California also has seen growth in youth hockey with the Kings, Ducks and Sharks' success recently. Adding Arizona State could presumably give the Big Ten a leg up on those emerging hockey markets.

Ohio hockey fans would likely love to see someone like Miami University or Bowling Green, both solid programs in their own right, join the conference but that doesn't seem likely at this point. I would bet my money on Arizona State being the eighth team based on the new recruiting grounds the Big Ten needs to compete with more established teams and conferences like Hockey East.

That's all speculation, though. What we do know now is that Notre Dame is a member of the Big Ten.