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Penn State Heads to South Bend for Big Ten Matchup with Notre Dame

The Nittany Lions will take on the Fighting Irish for the first time as conference foes.

Photo by Heather Weikel

Over the past two seasons, Penn State and Notre Dame have gotten to know each other pretty well. The Nittany Lions welcomed the Fighting Irish to State College in 2015-16, splitting the weekend series with the Irish. Last season, the Lions made the trip to South Bend against the then-No. 3 team in the nation.

The two squads played to a 3-3 draw in the opening game of the series. The following game went back to overtime deadlocked at two, with Andrew Sturtz playing the role of hero 80 seconds into the extra frame.

This weekend, the two teams will add another chapter to what has already become a classic matchup, this time as conference foes, as the Lions return to South Bend. Friday’s contest gets started at 7:35 p.m., while Saturday’s matchup will have a 5:30 p.m. puck drop, broadcast nationally on NBCSN.

The Lions have split each of their weekend series this season, leading to their 5-5-0 record. Through 10 games last season, the Lions were 8-1-1, but also faced an easier schedule — their best opponent being the then-No. 3 Irish — and were still almost a month away from conference play.

This weekend marks the third Big Ten matchup for the Lions already this season. The Irish, meanwhile, will be playing their second consecutive conference series — and Big Ten home opener — after sweeping Ohio State last weekend in Columbus. Prior to the sweep of the Buckeyes, the Irish posted a 4-8-1 record against Big Ten teams since the conference was established.

Scouting Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish (6-3-1, 2-0-0 Big Ten) are off to a strong start after making a Frozen Four run last season, in which they lost to the eventual national champion Denver. Jeff Jackson’s squad came into the season with a pair of major holes to fill, as the team lost a pair of key performers during the offseason.

Goaltender Cal Petersen, who started every game for the Irish over the past two seasons, departed after his junior season to sign an entry-level contract with the Los Angeles Kings. In his place, the Irish have run with a goaltending duo of Cale Morris and Dylan St. Cyr. Morris has started six of the Irish’s 10 games, sporting a 5-1-0 record and possibly establishing himself as the long-term replacement of Petersen.

The Irish are led up front by Jake Evans, who finished second in scoring to recently-departed Anders Bjork last season. This year, the senior forward leads the NCAA with 14 assists and 18 points, while also contributing four goals. The Irish have also benefited from a potent defense, as blueliners Jordan Gross and Bobby Nardella are averaging at least a point per game this season.

Much like the Lions with Denis Smirnov, the Irish may also be without one of their top offensive threats this weekend. Junior Andrew Oglevie has four goals and seven points this season, but has missed the past two weekends with an injury. The Irish have gone 3-1-0 in his absence.