Series Preview: Penn State vs. Notre Dame

Story posted January 27, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Christopher Hess

With the Big Ten season beginning to heat up as the month of February approaches, Penn State (8-8) will welcome Notre Dame (7-8-1) to Pegula Ice Arena for a crucial two-game series.

The Fighting Irish sit just one point and one spot ahead of the Nittany Lions in the conference standings, but there is still plenty of time for a massive shakeup in the race for the regular season title.

Penn State enters the two-game set with a record of 8-3 in its last 11 games after starting 0-5 and averages 3.04 goals per game, which is No. 20 in the nation out of 51 teams playing.

Carolina Hurricanes draft pick Kevin Wall leads all Nittany Lions with 16 points, consisting of eight goals and eight assists, while senior captain Alex Limoges is just one point behind with 15.

“[Wall’s] 200-foot game has improved, and I love the fact that he’s getting rewarded for it,” head coach Guy Gadowsky said. “He’s come such a long way.”

Three other Penn State players are in double figures for points with Tim Doherty, Aarne Talvitie and Connor McMenamin holding totals of 13, 13 and 11 respectively.

The defense is anchored by Clayton Phillips, Paul DeNaples and rising star Jimmy Dowd Jr. Dowd leads all freshmen in points with eight, and six of those points are assists.

Between the pipes, Oskar Autio has separated himself from freshman Liam Soulière, as his game has improved throughout the course of the season. His record now sits at 7-5 with a goals-against-average of 3.01 to complement an .891 save percentage and plenty of time to grow even more.

Jeff Jackson’s Notre Dame team being under .500 is a bit of a rare sight, but the Fighting Irish are notorious for giving opposing teams headaches regardless of record.

“They’re Notre Dame, they’re going to be extremely well coached and extremely disciplined,” Gadowsky said. “You can’t just sit around and wait for them to make mistakes.”

Alex Steeves and Graham Slaggert are two of the main offensive weapons for the Irish.

They have a combined point total of 25, as Steeves leads the team with 13, and Slaggert is second with 12.

Nick Leivermann and Spencer Stastney have been the two best defensemen in the points category, as the duo, draft picks of the Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators respectively, totals 16 on the season.

In net, Notre Dame is missing former standout goalie Cale Morris deeply, as the two main goalies have been rather shaky.

Dylan St. Cyr and Ryan Bischel have been splitting the time through 16 games played, and neither one has solidified himself as the No. 1 option.

St. Cyr, a senior, has a record of 4-5, a goals-against-average of 3.01 and a save percentage of .891.

Bischel, a sophomore, has pretty similar stats with a record of 3-3-1, a goals-against average of 2.85 and a save percentage of .890.

Penn State has beaten Notre Dame only three times since the Irish joined the Big Ten prior to the 2017-18 season, and a number of those games have been tightly contested.

If the Nittany Lions can score early and often, they’d likely force a team that is No. 31 in scoring with 2.48 goals per game to play from behind.

But in the grand scheme, it’s Penn State vs. Notre Dame. Expect to see two tightly contested games in what could be a preview of a matchup in the Big Ten tournament when the time comes.

This is going to be fun.

Prediction: Split

Game 1: Notre Dame 3, Penn State 2

Game 2: Penn State 4, Notre Dame 3

 

Christopher Hess is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email christopherhess22@gmail.com.