Irish Face First Road Test Against Streaking Buckeyes

Irish Face First Road Test Against Streaking Buckeyes

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish face off in NCAA men's hockey against the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Nov 1, 2017 by Hunter Sharpless
Irish Face First Road Test Against Streaking Buckeyes

By Jacob Messing

The No. 16-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes host the No. 10 Notre Dame Fighting Irish this weekend, with a handful of firsts in tow.

The Irish hold a 4-3-1 overall record, but have a big test ahead of them this weekend as they take their first road trip of the season, which also comes against their first Big Ten opponent of the year, the 5-1-2 Buckeyes.

Both games will be streamed live this weekend right here on FloHockey when the puck drops at 7 PM EST Friday.

The Irish have watched their ranking drop three times in as many weeks, falling from No. 4 to their current No. 8 position after a series split with Nebraska-Omaha.

Leading scorers Jordan Gross and Jake Evans are coming strong weekends. Gross scored two goals and two assists while Evans added seven assists and took over the league lead in points.

“They’re captains, they’re leaders of the team and they take it upon themselves to do what’s necessary to help our team win,” coach Jeff Jackson told Tobias Hoonhout of the NDSMC Observer following last week’s win. “Sometimes they have to give up a little bit offensively to defend, because they’re both out there against the other team’s top lines, and they have to go head-to-head with really good players and really good lines.”

Evans, a senior from Toronto, has improved his point output in each of his first three seasons. Now with 15 points (3 G, 12 A), he sits among the top scorers in the nation.

A lack of travel this far into the season, mixed with its first Big Ten opponent of the year, could go one of two ways for the Irish. The perfect storm of pressure could reveal previously hidden faults, or it could light a proverbial fire underneath the team in the face of a challenge.

It’d be foolish to call OSU their first test of the season, as the Irish held their own against defending NCAA Champions Denver, with a tie and a loss in their two-game series three weeks ago.

Ohio State has had a pretty smooth journey so far this season and hasn’t lost a game since October 7 versus then-No. 12 Wisconsin. Since then, the Buckeyes have gone undefeated in six games, with a 4-0-2 record in that span.

After two surprising 1-1 ties with Rensselaer Engineers, OSU has won its past four games, recording victories over Massachusetts and Robert Morris.

The series against Robert Morris saw freshmen Auston Pooley and Eugene Fadyeyev net their first college goals in OSU’s 5-3 victory in the first game. Twelve different Buckeyes have now scored a goal over the first eight games, while 20 different players have registered at least a point.

“It just tells you that everybody on this team can chip in at any night, and I think that’s the important thing and that’s what we preach all the time,” coach Steve Rohlik told Wyatt Crosher of the Lantern after the game. “We’re only as good as our 27 guys.”

While Rohlik’s team can score from all four lines, Ohio State will be looking to activate its power play, which has accounted for three goals on 38 chances (7.9 percent). Last season, the Buckeyes scored at 31.6 percent on the man advantage, helping carry the team to a 21-12-6 record.

The good news for OSU is that all three power play goals have come over the past four games, meaning the man advantage is building chemistry.

Don’t miss the action this weekend, which takes place at 7 PM on both Friday and Saturday, right here on FloHockey, alongside six other Big Ten games.

Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @JMessing23.