The Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey team resumes Big Ten conference play this weekend with a road trip to face the Penn State Nittany Lions. The Irish, ranked #13 in the country, are coming off a split series against the Niagara Purple Eagles. Notre Dame enters the weekend fourth in the Big Ten, but in a tight race, where weekend results could see them rise as high as second or fall into fifth.
Where, When, How to Watch
- Where: Pegula Ice Arena, University Park, PA
- When: Friday, January 7, 7pm ET (Game 1); Saturday, January 8, 5pm ET (Game 2)
- How to Watch: Streaming on BTN Plus (Games 1 and 2)
Last weekend, the Irish offense was stifled in game one, only scoring once against a Niagara team allowing over three goals per game. They came back in game two with five goals though, but they’ll need to spread the goals around better if they want to move up in the conference this weekend.
Notre Dame continues to have one of the strongest tandems in the country in net, with Matthew Galajda continuing his strong play. The story the past few weeks though is Ryan Bischel’s turnaround from a slow start. In game two last weekend Bischel earned his first career shutout while lowering his goals against to 1.83 per game and bringing his save percentage up to .928. The Irish have two starting quality goaltenders and they can ride that combo pretty far if both continue playing this way.
Both the Irish offense and defense have stayed consistent so far this season. They are still allowing under two goals per game and scoring over three. In conference play, however, Notre Dame are closer to even on those fronts, scoring 2.9 goals and allowing 2.2. Part of that difference can be attributed to recent struggles on the power play, which coincide closely with conference play beginning. Picking up the power play scoring could be exactly what the Irish need to move up the conference standings and national rankings.
Penn State enters the weekend in last place in the Big Ten. They are 12-8 overall but only 3-7 in conference. They score in bunches but they also give up goals in bunches as well, averaging over three goals per game on both ends. In conference play though they are allowing 4.1 goals per game and are only killing off 75.3% of penalties on the year. One of the most telling stats for Penn State on the season is goals per period. They have scored between 21-25 goals in every period, but while allowing under twenty goals in each of the first two periods that have allowed 31 goals in the third. The Nittany Lions struggle late and that can be where Notre Dame takes advantage.
With their tandem in net, Notre Dame holds the advantage this weekend. If they can hold a lead or be within striking distance late in the game they can come out of the weekend with a pair of wins. If the defense can help to keep the potent Penn State offense in check the offense should be able give them the advantage. That won’t be easy though, and on the road a split of the series seems the most likely outcome.