Penn State hockey will drop the puck against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish for a Friday/Saturday series this weekend that is pivotal to the Nittany Lions’ season.
This weekend marks the 28th and 29th meeting between both squads, with Notre Dame holding a 17-7-3 record with a 10-4-1 record at Compton Family Ice Arena. In this away barn, Penn State Hockey hasn’t won a regular season game in three years, having lost five straight and being outscored 25-5 during that span.
Overall, Penn State Hockey has three wins at Compton since joining the Big Ten, and averages 2.33 goals per game in South Bend. Notre Dame is 5-1-1 on home ice this season, so what will the Nittany Lions need to do to steal one on the road this weekend?
Penn State Hockey is 6-2 this season in games decided by one goal, while 13 of the last 27 meetings all-time between Penn State and Notre Dame have been decided by one goal or less.
The Nittany Lions also remain undefeated in opening games this season, with an impressive 9-0 record, holding a 5-4 record during closing games this year.
Notre Dame is barely ranked within the top 20, and second to last in the Big Ten standings.
The Irish also average a measly 2.38 goals per game, ranking last in the Big Ten and 47th nationally.
Notre Dame has failed to score more than two goals in 10 of their first 16 games this year. Notre Dame has one steady piece this season in goaltending, senior Ryan Bischel holds a .924 save percentage, tied for the Big Ten lead, and barely ahead of Liam Souliere’s percentage.
A Favored Matchup
Overall, the goaltending is matched, but we see similar traits from last weekend’s series against Ohio State, which resulted in a split.
Notre Dame has only 3 players with three or more goals, compared to the Nittany Lion’s 13.
Last weekend Kevin Wall buried a shorthanded goal to open the game, having the opportunity to do that again.
The fighting Irish powerplay is 0 for 15 over its last four games, also holding a 2-7-2 record this season when their opponent scores first. Penn State has done that in 14 of 18 games played thus far, holding a 12-2 record when doing so.
Faceoff Specialist & Elite Defense
This holds a favored Friday matchup for Penn State Hockey, something not common in years past.
On top of scoring more, the faceoff dot has been controlled, and the blue line is chipping in offensively. Penn State leads the Big Ten in faceoff winning percentage, with Ture Linden and Connor MacEachern leading the way.
Last weekend, Linden went 19 for 21 in Friday’s victory, with MacEachern ranking only behind him in Big Ten faceoff winning percentage of (60.9%). Defensively, Jimmy Dowd Jr. is coming off a three-point weekend against Ohio State, where he scored the game-winner Friday night, up to 13 points on the season, good enough for third on the team in total points.
Junior D-man Christian Berger contributed last weekend too, blocking nine shots to move into the Big Ten lead with 36 on the season.
Penn State Hockey should not have issues Friday night, expect shorthanded pressure from them, and score first in this series.
It will be a great feat to bring the Fighting Irish record down to 5-2-1 on home ice this year.
It’s the Saturday game that should stand tough, while it would be fantastic to conclude the fall semester with a Big Ten sweep, I do not think it will happen.
I imagine Guy Gadowsky will have a heavy focus on how they can close out a series better after the break. A vital trait come tournament time will be stringing wins together against the top 20 teams. Senior forward, Connor McMenamin leads all Nittany Lions with eight points in thirteen career games against the Irish, expect him to get on the scoreboard both nights.
While his doppelganger, Connor MacEachern has seven points in thirteen games against the Irish. So, here’s to proving me wrong and concluding the fall semester with a Saturday win.
Series Prediction: Penn State Splits 1-1