Jeff Jackson wants sustainability.
Goals have come fast and furious for Notre Dame hockey through four games. Starting with a 9-2 rout of Arizona State to open the season, the Irish have scored at least three goals in each of their games this season. They’re second nationally with 19 total goals.
Anders Bjork leads the way with five. Dylan Malmquist follows with three. But it’s not necessarily top heavy. Eight players have scored at least one.
“The interesting thing is right now we’re getting better balance probably,” Jackson said. “The scoring right now is primarily coming from the top two lines. I’m hoping in time we’re gonna get more production out of those (other) two lines that I talked about being grind lines because if they’re cycling the puck they’re gonna get chances. If they’re grinding in the offensive zone then they’re gonna get scoring chances.”
Lines three and four are made up primarily of younger or more defensive minded forwards.
Bo Brauer has two goals, while others are still looking to make their mark. Cal Burke, Joe Wegwerth, Dawson Cook, Felix Holmberg, Jack Jenkins and Mike O’Leary are all in the mix on the bottom two lines. Most don’t even have many shots on goal yet.
But top line players believe those chances will come and be converted. If not, those players can still impact games in other ways.
“Going into the season you’ve got a lot of questions,” said center Jake Evans. “But I think from the last two weekends and exhibition games we saw how much depth we have. Our third and fourth lines, I think both weekends changed the momentum of some games where the other team might’ve had good shifts and they go on and have some good zone time, some good cycles.
“They might not be scoring but I think that’s a big thing, our team depth right now.”
Keeping its status as one of the top scoring teams in the country will likely depend on whether Notre Dame can get goals up and down the lineup. That includes defensemen.
Jordan Gross and Bobby Nardella established themselves last season as two of the top scoring defensemen in the country. Each has two goals and five points through four games. Could a couple more blue liners get in the mix?
Freshman Tory Dello has already taken 15 shots, two more than Nardella. Dennis Gilbert is another candidate. Scoring depth doesn't always mean just forwards.
“The area that maybe some balance comes from is defense,” Jackson said. “If we get some production out of Nardella and Gross and potentially guys like Gilbert and (Andrew) Peeke and even Dello, we may end up getting pretty decent production from our defense.”
Penn State plans to pepper Petersen
Goalie Cal Petersen should get some extra work this weekend against Penn State.
Because the Nittany Lions shoot. A lot.
They’ve averaged 40 shots per game this season.
“They play a different style than what we’ve seen,” Jackson said. “They shoot the puck from everywhere. They’re averaging probably close to 40, 45 shots a game. They push the pace. They’re up the ice fast and once they get in the offensive zone everything is going to the net. It’s a high tempo game and it will be a high tempo game against them this weekend. It’ll be a challenge, for sure.”
More shots can result in more pressure on a goaltender. Another byproduct is rebounds.
Create enough traffic in front of the net and those can turn into goals.
“They’re an aggressive team,” Evans said. “They definitely don’t take their foot off the pedal. They try to shoot from everywhere. They’re known for getting 40-plus shots a game.
“We’ll need to crash the net. We’ll need to get those rebounds out of there. They’re a pretty tough team, so we’re gonna have to get to the net and outwork them. It’ll be a rough game but we’ll stand up to them. I think the game might be won in front of the net mainly.”