Series Preview: Penn State vs Notre Dame
Penn State men's hockey concludes regular season play with a "do or die" series in South Bend against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Host Andre Magaro, along with analysts Jake Starr, Jordan Mansberger, and Derek Heid have broken down everything you need to know for this weekend's matchup:
Penn State must overcome some major hurdles to keep its ever-shrinking NCAA tournament hopes alive. The Nittany Lions hit the road to end their regular season campaign, taking on the No.17 Notre Dame Fighting Irish in South Bend.
Penn State currently sits at No.18 in the Pairwise Rankings. However, in order to squeak into the 16-team tournament field, the Nittany Lions will need to climb at least into the top 15 to account for any automatic berths from teams outside of the top 16.
Penn State’s task this weekend could have been considerably easier had they swept Wisconsin last weekend at Pegula, who at the time hovered over the last place in the Big Ten.
However, as good as the Nittany Lions played Friday, they were just as poor on Saturday. After winning the series opener 8-2, the senior day went the way of the Badgers, 7-3.
In order to keep any type of hope alive outside of a miracle Big Ten tournament run, Penn State must accomplish what it has yet to do this season: sweep a series on the road.
Sweeping a series has proven to be a tough task in general for the Nittany Lion this season. Their play has been especially suspect on the road, specifically on defense. Conceding an average of 4.40 goals per game away from home has led to a 4-5-1 road record on the season.
While the odds are against Penn State, the team will take solace in knowing that their last time out against Notre Dame led to arguably the team’s best performance of the season.
In December, Penn State put an astounding nine goals past the Irish defense, ranked second in the Big Ten on the season. The Nittany Lions picked up a 9-1 victory on the night, earning a split against what was at the time a top 5 Notre Dame squad.
Unfortunately, this result never amounted to any consistency for Penn State, and both teams only trended downward throughout the second half of the season.
Now coming into this weekend, both teams are desperate to take both games of the series to not only improve its position in the Pairwise but the Big Ten standings as well.
Both teams need at least three points (in Penn State’s instance, four) to clinch home ice in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. Should the weekend end in a split, both teams will find home ice pivotal, as automatic qualification through winning the Big Ten tournament will be its only way into the NCAA tournament.
The Nittany Lions have failed to pick up over three points in a true road series all season, making this weekend’s task that much taller.
On the bright side, after missing last weekend’s Wisconsin series due to injury, Evan Barratt could possibly return for the blue and white this weekend. Barratt has led the Nittany Lions in scoring for most of the season, and would no doubt be an asset against the pesky Notre Dame defense.
A huge key for this weekend’s series will be the special teams battle. Penn State has the fourth most efficient power play in the nation, converting 25.96 percent of the time. Meanwhile, Notre Dame takes only 7.22 penalty minutes per game – the fewest in college hockey.
The chances with a man advantage will be few and far between for Penn State. If the Nittany Lions want to salvage the necessary results this weekend, they will have to capitalize, as they have had the tendency to concede numerous high-quality chances to the opposition at even strength throughout the season.
At the end of the day, both teams have shown flashes of belonging in the top tier of college hockey. However, neither has been able to establish any consistency and because of that, this series will end in a split.
The odds are certainly against the Nittany Lions to breakthrough and receive the necessary points for home ice next weekend, but if this team can be described in one word, it is unpredictable.
Andre Magaro is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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