The Notre Dame hockey team will be initiated into the Big Ten on Friday, and Ohio State is glad to do the honors.
The No. 10 Fighting Irish, who became the Big Ten's seventh member this season, will play their first conference games against the No. 16 Buckeyes on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. at Value City Arena.
“They bring the brand, academically, athletically, facility-wise, obviously their coaching staff and the respect I have for them and what they’ve done. They just make our league better,” Buckeyes coach Steve Rohlik said. “It’s exciting to have them in the league, and it’s going to be a fun weekend.”
“I don’t know if you can give a bigger name in (college) hockey,” freshman forward Austin Pooley said. “They’ve been really good for, I don’t know, the last 10 years. They got a great new rink. They’ve got a great program.”
Pooley would know that better than most people. His uncle, Paul Pooley, is the associate head coach at Notre Dame. Paul and his twin brother, Perry, Austin’s father, were stars at Ohio State in the early 1980s.
“I'll probably see (Paul) a little bit, maybe Thursday night,” Pooley said, “but when Friday comes around, it’s all business. We need three points here.”
Three points may be hard to obtain, as Notre Dame (4-3-1, 0-0) boasts the best scoring offense in the Big Ten at 3.62 goals per game and has three of the most prolific point scorers in the conference.
Senior forward Jake Evans, who was drafted by Montreal in the seventh round of the 2014 NHL draft, is the Big Ten’s top scorer with 15 points (three goals, 12 assists). Senior defenseman Jordan Gross is tied for second with 11 points (four goals, seven assists), and junior defenseman Bobby Nardella is tied for fourth with 10 points (two goals, eight assists).
It’s a substantial test for the Buckeyes (5-1-2, 1-1) and junior goalie Sean Romeo, who are first in the Big Ten in goals allowed with 1.50 per game.
“I think we have to know where they are and know what they do on the ice,” Rohlik said. “But more specifically it’s about us, and how we play, because we have to know we have to play five-man defense and five-man offense. We can’t really single out one guy.”
Ohio State’s offense has perked up lately, scoring three or more goals in every game of a recent four-game winning streak.