Series of the Week: Notre Dame vs. Ohio State
As one of the marquee matchups in college hockey thus far, the fifth-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3-2-1) play host to the seventh-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes (3-2-1).
The Buckeyes come into South Bend, Indiana in a bit of a slump, falling this past weekend to the Bowling Green Falcons 8-2 on Friday and tying the series finale in Bowling Green, KY by a score of 2-2. Ohio State has dropped three spots in the most recent rankings, and it will look to rebound against a tough Notre Dame team, especially on the defensive side. In addition to giving up eight goals against Bowling Green, Ohio State gave up six goals in a loss to Massachusetts.
If Ohio State wants to improve its defensive showings, it will first need to solve somewhat of a goalie dilemma. In four starts, goaltender Tommy Nappier has thrived, posting a 1.50 GAA in four games. Yet, Sean Romeo has also seen extensive time for the Buckeyes, taking the ice in three games and posting an anemic 5.06 GAA.
While statistically, there seems to be no question who should be taking place in goal, both goaltenders have seen significant time, so it will be interesting to see in this upcoming series if coach Steve Rohlik continues with his platooning in goal or decides to stick with one for the remainder of this young season.
Meanwhile, the formerly top-ranked Fighting Irish come in riding a two-game losing streak at the hands of the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs, losing by scores of 3-2 and 3-1 on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Aside from these two games, Notre Dame has proved to be somewhat of an offensive juggernaut, led by junior forward Cal Burke and his five goals, as well as senior defenseman Bobby Nardella’s four. In addition, Nardella has seven assists on the year, good for a team-leading 11 points. The Fighting Irish have been averaging four goals per game, and against a somewhat shaky Ohio State defensive unit, they will look to take advantage.
Unlike the Buckeyes, Notre Dame has preferred to go with one goaltender in junior Cale Morris. Morris possesses a 2.78 GAA in his five starts on the season, as well as a .905 save percentage. While he may not have the flashiest of stats, he certainly brings a sense of stability to the Fighting Irish.
Aside from a six-goal blemish against Mercyhurst, Morris has yet to allow more than three goals, and against a defensively challenged team such as Ohio State, this should be enough to lead them to victory.
A lot of this series rides on who the Buckeyes decided to go with in goal. If Nappier is their man, a defensive battle can be expected between these two highly ranked teams. Otherwise, expect the Buckeyes to continue their recent slide. Playing on home ice, Notre Dame should be able to right the ship at the Compton Family Ice Arena, gaining a series victory that should send them right back up the rankings.
Andrew Destin is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.