Series Preview: Notre Dame
Josh Starr, Eric Ohlson and Brian McLaughlin break down this week's series on the ice between the No. 19 Penn State Nittany Lions and the No. 6 Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
No. 19 Penn State takes to the road this weekend for their first series with No. 6 Notre Dame with both teams being members of the Big Ten.
The Nittany Lions have split each series so far this year, heading into South Bend with a 5-5-0 record (2-2-0 Big Ten).
The Fighting Irish are significantly more threatening than some of Penn State’s recent opponents, carrying a three-game win streak and a 6-3-1 record (2-0-0 Big Ten).
The series starts on Friday at 7:35 p.m. The puck drops for the second game at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.
One of Penn State’s brightest stars, sophomore forward Denis Smirnov, will be out for a few weeks. It is not known what exactly is keeping the most explosive player on the team off the ice, but the Nittany Lions will be at a disadvantage without him.
Without Smirnov’s 11 points on five goals and six assists in eight games, the Nittany Lions will look to junior forward Andrew Sturtz. The good news for Penn State is that Sturtz, who leads the team in points with 13, also holds the team record for most goals scored all-time with 46.
Freshman defenseman Cole Hults has also put up impressive numbers this season. With two goals and nine assists in 10 games, he’s tied with Smirnov for second-most points on the team.
Defense has been a struggle for the Blue and White, allowing 39 goals on a .131 shot percentage this season. Penn State has scored 38 goals on the season, with a .092 percentage.
Despite averaging 41.3 shots per game compared to opponents’ 29.7 on Penn State, the Nittany Lions’ potent offense hasn’t quite overcome the peppering of their own net.
Notre Dame doesn’t have the same defensive woes, allowing ten fewer goals on a much lower .088 shooting percentage. Their offense, though not as trigger-happy, has scored 36 goals on a .112 shooting percentage.
Stopping senior forward Jake Evans will be vital if Penn State is to take home even one win this series. Evans has 18 points on the year, with four goals and 14 assists.
The Fighting Irish spread their goals evenly across the team, with five players tallying four and another two with three. Evans, alongside Jordan Gross and Bobby Nardella, has been quarterbacking the team’s attack. Totaling 30 of the team’s 67 total assists, these three know how to find the most dangerous player on the ice at any time.
Notre Dame’s sophomore goaltender Cale Morris will also be a major frustration for the Nittany Lions. In seven games this season, he’s allowed only 2.22 goals per game on a .925 save percentage. The Fighting Irish are 5-1-0 with Morris in goal.
Penn State’s Peyton Jones will likely start between the pipes this weekend. He has struggled this season after a phenomenal freshman season. In nine games, Jones has allowed 4.02 goals per game and saved just 86.9 percent of the 212 shots on him this season.
If Penn State can’t fix their defense in time, the team will have to rely on an explosive offense once again.
Tommy Butler is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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