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Notre Dame Hockey: Penn State Series Preview

The Irish close out the regular season with two games at home.

Twitter @NDHockey

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey team returns home to South Bend for their final series of the regular season against the Penn State Nittany Lions. Notre Dame is looking to end the season on a high note as they head into postseason play.

Where, When, How to Watch

  • Where: Compton Family Ice Arena, Notre Dame, IN
  • When: Friday, March 5, 7:45pm ET (Game 1); Saturday, March 6, 5:30pm ET
  • How to Watch: NBCSN and streaming on NBCSports.com (Game 1); Streaming on NBCSports.com (Game 2)

Notre Dame, despite their inconsistencies this season, comes into the weekend in third place in the Big Ten on points. They sit behind the Wisconsin Badgers and Minnesota Gophers, who have run away with the conference this year and are the two clear favorites to win the Big Ten tournament. However, due to the unbalanced schedules teams have played this year, seeding for the tournament will be based on win percentage, which puts Notre Dame fourth behind the Michigan Wolverines. As things stand, Notre Dame would play Penn State again in the first round of the tournament, but a sweep (and Michigan losses) could set the Irish up for a meeting with the Ohio State Buckeyes.

The Irish enter this weekend off a sweep of the Michigan State Spartans where they completely shut down the opposing offense, not allowing a goal in either game with Dylan St. Cyr earning Second Star of the Week honors for the Big Ten. That was good as the offense wasn’t stellar, but was just good enough to win both games. I would expect a similar series this weekend as the Nittany Lions and Spartans are built similarly.

Notre Dame will also be honoring six seniors this weekend, including St. Cyr and alternate captains Matt Hellickson, Pierce Crawford, and Colin Theisen. As is tradition, expect to see the green jerseys on the ice Saturday. In other honors, Landon Slaggert was named the Hockey Commissioners Association National Rookie of the Month and Alex Steeves is still nominated for the Hobey Baker Award fan vote.

Penn State enters this weekend coming off a break of over a month, having last played January 28-29 against Notre Dame. That series was a split between the two teams. The Nittany Lions, statistically, are very similar to Notre Dame’s last opponent in Michigan State. Unlike recent history, Penn State doesn’t score at a high volume, shooting only 7.5% on the year. They’ve also struggled in net as they have a team save % of only .878. Of course they’ve only played 18 games on the season, so those numbers come with a small sample size warning. Penn state really hasn’t had much time to get into a rhythm this season and coming off a month without playing they’ll need to jump right into things if they want to make a run in the postseason.

Prediction

Given that they haven’t played in over a month Penn State will be looking to make a quick start this weekend. However, given their struggles on both sides of the puck, if Notre Dame can weather the initial storm they should have the clear advantage. I expect Notre Dame to come away with at least one and probably two wins this weekend to set themselves up for postseason play.