Notre Dame to face Penn State for home opener
Brian Plamondon | Friday, February 21, 2014
No. 4 Notre Dame will take the field Saturday when it hosts No. 12 Penn State in its home opener. Notre Dame (1-0) will try to keep its momentum after a 19-7 rout of Jacksonville Sunday in which 13 different players notched goals for the Irish.“The biggest thing that impressed me [against Jacksonville] was our energy level,” Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said. “The variety of different plays that we made — we scored goals out of at least seven different scenarios over the course of the day. I felt like it was a total team contribution more than us riding one or two guys.”
After a decisive victory in their opener, the Irish will turn their attention to the Nittany Lions, a team that has taken Notre Dame to overtime the last two times they met. Notre Dame won last year’s meeting 10-9, and has won 10 of the last 11 meetings. This will be the 18th straight year the teams have met.
Penn State (1-1) comes into the game having won 12 straight road games.
“They’re scoring goals in a lot of different ways,” Corrigan said. “You’ve got to defend them the entire game and defend them the full field, because they do a great job of getting out and creating breaks.”
The Nittany Lion offense will feature four players that scored at least two goals in their most recent game, a 12-11 overtime loss to Loyola. Senior attackman Shane Sturgis and sophomore attackman TJ Sanders have led the way so far, with nine and seven goals on the season, respectively. The Penn State defense, however, is the team’s strength, led by senior goalie Austin Kaut, a 2013 first team All-American and winner of the Ensign C. Markland Kelly, Jr. Award, honoring the nation’s best goalie. He boasted a .610 save percentage and a 7.37 goals-against average during last season’s campaign.
“You have to be smart and selective about the shots you take [on Kaut],” Corrigan said. “You can help their transition by taking poor shots. I don’t think we’re going to get away with as many turnovers as we did last week.”
Notre Dame will look to get after Kaut early and often, trying to duplicate its performance against Jacksonville when they took 56 total shots. The Irish offense, although balanced, will look to sophomore attackman Matt Kavanagh and junior attackman Conor Doyle to lead the charge. Kavanagh tallied a game-high seven points on three goals and four assists against Jacksonville, while Doyle netted three goals of his own. Not to be forgotten is senior midfielder and face-off specialist Liam O’Connor, who won 19 of his 25 draws while adding a goal.
“I thought [O’Connor] was terrific,” Corrigan said. “Draws are always important. If you’re ahead and you win them it puts a lot of pressure on the other team. If you’re behind, it’s the key to catching up.”
With games against No. 3 North Carolina and No. 6 Denver on the horizon, Corrigan said it was important to focus on one game at a time.
“We watched Penn State’s games against Michigan and Loyola,” Corrigan said. “They’re a dangerous team.”
With a game under their belt, the Irish will take on Penn State in their home opener at 3 p.m. Saturday at Arlotta Stadium.
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