Series Preview: Penn State vs. Notre Dame
After a 34-day layoff, Penn State (9-9) will finish off its regular season slate in South Bend against Notre Dame (12-12-2) this weekend at Compton Family Ice Arena.
Penn State played its last two games before the virus outbreak against this same Notre Dame team and went on to split the series at Pegula Ice Arena at the end of January.
The Nittany Lions will likely get the No. 5 seed in the Big Ten tournament, and the opponent has yet to be determined with it likely being either Notre Dame or Michigan.
Kevin Wall and Alex Limoges still lead all Penn State scorers with 16 points. Limoges has nine goals, which is good for the team lead in that category.
Tim Doherty, Aarne Talvitie and Connor McMenamin are three other forwards for the Nittany Lions that were hot right before the shutdown. Doherty, the Maine graduate transfer, is lethal with the puck on his stick—evident via his nine assists in 18 games played.
Defensively, Clayton Phillips, Paul DeNaples and Jimmy Dowd Jr. have been solid all season long and will look to return to their old ways this weekend. Dowd, a freshman, has the most points for all first-year players on the team with eight (two goals and six assists).
Oskar Autio was strong between the pipes for Guy Gadowsky’s team leading up to the month of February, flashing a stat line of 14 games played, an 8-6 record, a 2.84 goals-against average and an .897 save percentage.
Jeff Jackson’s Fighting Irish have a knack for turning up the heat once the calendar flips to March, and this year shouldn’t be any different.
Notre Dame is riding a three-game point streak going into this series with Penn State and has relied heavily on strong offensive play from junior forward Alex Steeves, who has 28 points.
Steeves has been outstanding for the Irish in almost every aspect possible, and his job is also made easier when the Slaggert brothers, Landon and Graham, are there to boost the offense as well.
Spencer Stastney and Nick Leivermann are two of the best defensemen on this Notre Dame squad, and the duo of Nate Clurman and Matt Hellickson has been ultra reliable too.
The days of Cale Morris are in the rearview mirror, and there have been instances where the Irish have missed his spectacular play in net. However, Dylan St. Cyr has been a solid replacement. In 19 games played, St. Cyr has a record of 9-8-1, a goals-against average of 2.38 and a save percentage of .919.
As mentioned previously, Notre Dame is one of the few teams that truly rises to the occasion when it is doubted or counted out as the season comes to a close.
The Fighting Irish are fighting for their tournament lives right now and will face a team that hasn’t touched the ice or played at game speed since Jan. 29.
Penn State will come out a little rusty but will get better as the weekend goes on, though it won’t be enough. Notre Dame is fresh off of a sweep against Michigan State, and it’s just so incredibly tough for a team to win coming off of a long break.
Prediction: Notre Dame sweep
Christopher Hess is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.