After a dominant month of November where they outscored their opponents by a total of 21-10, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish look to carry that momentum into their last series before their Christmas break, when they meet the Penn State Nittany Lions in State College this weekend. Last weekend’s sweep over the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Engineers allowed the Irish to jump to the #5 spot in the USCHO poll and the #6 spot in the USA Today poll heading into their first meeting with Penn State since last year’s Big Ten Tournament semifinal.
☑️ Stellar highlights— Notre Dame Hockey (@NDHockey) March 11, 2018
☑️ Game-winning goal
☑️ IRISH WIN
Take a look back at the Irish victory in the Big Ten Tournament to advance to the final, Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on Big Ten Network.#GoIrish pic.twitter.com/e7zTxHL7UH
Where: Pegula Ice Arena, State College, PA
When: Friday, Dec. 7, 7:00 P.M. ET (Game 1) and Saturday, Dec. 8, 7:00 P.M. ET (Game 2)
Watch: Big Ten Network Plus
If you’re someone who enjoys high scoring contests, the Nittany Lions are a team whose games you don’t want to miss. Their 5.13 goals per game are by far the highest in Division I, in fact the next closest team is more than a full point behind them. If they’re scoring at such a ridiculous pace, how could they be just 10-4-1 with an underwhelming conference record of 2-3-1? Well, they’re also allowing 3.80 goals per game, which is the most in the Big Ten, and the fifth most in all of Division I.
Three big reasons for their success on offense are forwards Evan Barratt, Alex Limoges and Nikita Pavlychev. Barratt and Limoges both lead the nation in points with 25. Barratt has a national best 12 goals, with Pavlychev not far behind with 9. The Penn State offense found the back of the net 8 times against the Wisconsin Badgers last weekend, but went 0-1-1 in the series as goaltender Peyton Jones struggled.
Since joining the Big Ten in hockey, Notre Dame is 4-0-1 against Penn State. If they hope to continue that trend, they’ll need another big series from their defense and goaltending, which is what makes this matchup so intriguing. The Irish have allowed just 1.67 goals per game, tied with the Bowling Green Falcons for the best in the nation. It was encouraging to see both Dylan St. Cyr and Cale Morris play well for Notre Dame between the pipes last week. The last time Morris took the ice at Penn State, he made an outstanding 55 saves.
✅ Taking 5️⃣ of 6️⃣ points on the road this weekend!— Notre Dame Hockey (@NDHockey) February 4, 2018
A inside look back at Saturday’s shootout win at Penn State pic.twitter.com/7ppAlOJvfR
With the Notre Dame defense being as hot as it is right now, I think this is finally the weekend where Penn State’s offense gets hit with a reality check. It will certainly be an exciting series to watch, even if you aren’t a fan of either team. I’m going with the Irish to continue their winning streak, and sweep the Nittany Lions.