Just like they entered last weekend, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish sit at #17 in the Pairwise rankings, as the last team out of the NCAA Tournament if it started today. In what will be the final series of the regular season, the Irish will need some help to clinch the second seed in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament. However, all Jeff Jackson’s team can focus on right now is what’s in front of them, and they’ll first have to take care of the Penn State Nittany Lions and their incredible offense.
WHERE, WHEN, AND HOW TO WATCH
Where: Compton Family Ice Arena, Notre Dame, IN
When: Friday, Mar. 1, 7:00 PM ET (Game 1) and Saturday, Mar. 2, 7:00 PM ET (Game 2)
Watch: NBCSN (Game 1) and NBC Sports Chicago +, CSN Mid-Atlantic and SportsNet New York (Game 2)
While the Ohio State Buckeyes have already clinched their important first round bye in the upcoming conference tournament, the remaining six teams are jockeying for position. The Irish sit tied at third with the Michigan Wolverines, both two points behind the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Just two points below the Irish are their opponents this weekend, so there is a good chance that the Fighting Irish and Nittany Lions may see each other again very soon. The two also met in a thrilling contest in last year’s conference tournament.
An inside look at our dramatic 3-2 win over Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament semifinal! pic.twitter.com/PTfSv7sgIe— Notre Dame Hockey (@NDHockey) March 12, 2018
The scoring ability of the Nittany Lions has been well-documented. At a whopping 4.69 goals per game, they are far and away the highest scoring team in Division I. The last time Notre Dame and Penn State met on the ice, the Nittany Lions lit the lamp frequently in a 9-1 thrashing in State College, PA. The teams split that series before heading into their semester breaks.
While Penn State does a great job of spreading the wealth on offense, the two players to keep an eye on most are forwards Alex Limoges and Evan Barratt. This pair of sophomores are the only teammates in the Big Ten who both have north of 36 points. No matter who’s on the ice for Penn State, Notre Dame will need to stay out of the penalty box as well. The Nittany Lions’ 25.96% power-play is the fourth best in Division I.
Saturday’s contest will be the final regular season game for seniors Joe Wegwerth, Bobby Nardella, Jack Jenkins and Dylan Malmquist, and they will be honored on Saturday. Nardella is leading the way for the senior class. The defenseman from Rosemont, IL has twenty-nine points on the season, which is the most on the team. Not far behind him is Malmquist, with twenty-seven, while Wegwerth and Jenkins both have eleven points each.
I think the safest prediction is that there will be a plethora of goals for both teams. There will be plenty of emotion, as the rest of the Notre Dame team will want to send off this historic group of seniors with a pair of victories. The Irish have split their last two series, and I expect that trend to continue this weekend.