Notre Dame to Join the B1G in Hockey
This weekend, Penn State will travel to South Bend, IN to take on #3 Notre Dame, the highest ranked team the Nittany Lions will have played this season. This weekend’s series however, comes with a shift to the college hockey landscape, as Notre Dame plans to join the Big Ten conference for hockey, effective next year.
The two teams met last year with the teams splitting the series. But next year, things will get interesting in what could emerge as Penn State’s first true hockey rivalry. The two schools already have some history from what both schools are known for: their football teams. With Penn State joining the Big Ten, they finally have a consistent powerhouse team in their conference that the Nittany Lions can model their program after. With the talent the Irish have in players like Anders Bjork, who currently leads the NCAA in points, the Nittany Lions will have standard to live up to.
Even though the Big Ten is only in their fifth season of sponsoring hockey, the conference has managed to send a team to the NCAA Tournament each year. With Notre Dame entering the fold, it might not be out of the question to see multiple teams from the conference get bids into the tournament in future years. With the current six-team setup, only once have two teams made the tournament.
Notre Dame is no stranger to shuffling conferences for hockey. Before joining Hockey East, the Fighting Irish were initially members of the WCHA alongside Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. After that, the team played in the CCHA with two different stints (1981 to 1983 and 1992 to 2013). They won both the CCHA regular-season and postseason tournament titles in 2007 and 2009, competing against the likes of Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State. The Irish would claim the final CCHA playoff championship in 2013.
As for the Big Ten in the future? The addition of Notre Dame as a seventh team to the conference definitely makes things intriguing as it adds a perennial contender to the mix. Moreover, the conference recently announced some changes to its postseason. Based on regular season records, the Big Ten teams will be seeded 1-7, with the No. 1 seed receiving a bye. The other teams will take part in a best-of-three series at the higher seed’s campus. The following round will feature two single-game semi-finals and then a conference championship game.
The future could bring some interesting changes to the conference. The Big Ten is trying to compete with conferences like Hockey East in the future and the progress they are making is indicative of that. The new playoff format debuting next year will certainly garner attention, and it will be interesting to see if the expansion continues. One thing is for sure though, don’t sleep on Big Ten Hockey.
Zach Kaplan is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at email@example.com.