Now winless in their last six games, things won’t be getting any easier for the no. 14/15 Notre Dame Fighting Irish when they host the no. 7 Penn State Nittany Lions for their last series before the semester break. The Big Ten leading Nittany Lions will come to Compton Family Ice Arena after splitting last weekend’s series with the Michigan Wolverines.
WHERE, WHEN, AND HOW TO WATCH
Where: Compton Family Ice Arena, Notre Dame, IN
When: Friday, Dec. 13, 7:00 PM ET (Game 1), Saturday, Dec. 14, 6:00 PM (Game 2)
Watch: NHL Network, NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBC Sports Chicago+, NBCSports.com & NBC Sports App (Game 1), NBCSports.com & NBC Sports App (Game 2)
No one could rightfully accuse Notre Dame of having an easy schedule. They’ve already seen three teams that currently sit in the top ten of the USCHO.com college hockey poll, and they’ll see their fourth this weekend. That being said, the fact that the Irish haven’t won in regulation in over a month should have fans wondering if it’s time to hit the panic button on the season.
For the second weekend in a row, the Irish were swept in a series where they lost both games by three goals or more. The only scoring came from center Trevor Janicke, fifth round pick of the Anaheim Ducks in last year’s NHL Draft. Cale Morris got the start between the pipes in both games, but was pulled in the third period of the second game. Shockingly, he now ranks last in the Big Ten among starting goalies with an .890 save percentage.
The Nittany Lions came into the season as the Big Ten favorite, after leading the nation in scoring last year. This year, their top five scorers are back and once again, they lead the nation in goals per game. Junior forward Alex Limoges became the first player to lead the nation in scoring and return since Gustav Nyquist, and junior forward Evan Barratt could have led the nation in scoring last year had he stayed healthy.
Penn State’s style of play allows for a lot of opportunities on the other end. The big question mark coming into the season was the play in their own end. What was once their Achilles’ heel, their defense, is now allowing a respectable 2.41 goals per game, which is third in the Big Ten.
The Irish are certainly trending downward and now have to face arguably the best team they’ll see all year. Luckily for Jeff Jackson’s team, it’s in their own barn and Penn State will be playing their fifth and sixth straight games on the road. I expect the teams to split the final series of 2019 in a high-scoring series.