No. 11 Penn State men’s hockey will see the first consequences of Notre Dame joining the Big Ten hockey conference this weekend.
The conference announced Notre Dame would be the seventh team to join at the end of the 2015-16 season. The original six Big Ten hockey schools — Penn State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin — will play a more spread out conference slate during this season.
The Nittany Lions open their conference season with two games against No. 7 Minnesota this weekend at Mariucci Arena, and five of their next seven weekend series are against Big Ten opponents.
Last season, Penn State opened conference play on December 1, when it swept Michigan at Pegula Ice Arena to extend its win streak to 11 games.
Every team in the Big Ten opened its conference slate in the first two weeks of December last season, but the addition of Notre Dame has changed the scheduling format because more conference games are added to the slate, forcing at least one team to have a Big Ten bye each week.
Five teams, including Penn State, will open conference play in October, and the other two, Notre Dame and Michigan State, will begin during the first weekend of November. Ohio State and Wisconsin, began their Big Ten schedules in the opening weekend of the season.
Despite the changes made to the schedule, defenseman Kevin Kerr downplayed its significance.
“We kind of have the same objectives every game,” Kerr said. “We’ll go out there and compete as hard as we possibly can and execute our game plan no matter who we’re playing. With that being said, I think everyone knows that Big Ten games are more hyped up, but as a team, we go out there with the same objectives every game.”
Another quirk in the schedule will see Penn State play against Minnesota on Friday and Sunday instead of a typical Friday-Saturday college hockey series. Game two of the series was moved to Sunday because of the Golden Gophers’ football game against Michigan State on Saturday night.
The puck will drop at 8 p.m. Friday night and Sunday’s game begins at 4 p.m.