The difference between good and elite teams was evident on Friday night as Notre Dame took the series-opening game against Penn State 5-3. The Nittany Lions played one of their best games of the year but couldn’t keep up with the raw talent of the Irish squad, and they couldn’t beat Cale Morris in net when they needed to at the end of the game. Penn State’s losing streak extends to six as just five games remain in the regular season.
Penn State opened the game with perhaps its best period of the year. Alec Marsh, playing on the top line with Chase Berger and Andrew Sturtz, cleaned up a mess in front of Morris just seven and a half minutes in to give his team an unlikely lead. Soon after, with the Nittany Lions still piling on the offense, it looked like either Nate Sucese or Brandon Biro doubled their lead. The puck slid under a defenseman into the corner of the net, but after a review, it was ruled that it went in off of a glove and was waved off. Penn State’s second goal wouldn’t come until the end of the period when Berger beat Morris high-glove off of a faceoff. After 20 minutes, the Nittany Lions had fired 23 shots and two goals on one of the best teams in college hockey.
Things began to unravel in the second when the Fighting Irish found their legs. Peyton Jones had played perfect hockey to that point, but Andrew Oglevie and Andrew Peeke beat him twice in the first seven minutes to knot things at two. Berger scored his second of the night to retake the lead before the period was halfway over, but a late goal from Bo Brauer tied the game 3-3 heading into the final intermission.
Notre Dame was outshot 18-8 in the last frame, but it scored the two decisive goals. The first came just four minutes in on Brauer’s second goal, as his team came out hot and turned a very long shift in the offensive zone into the eventual game-winner. From that point on it was almost all Penn State, piling on offense, rolling four lines, and peppering Morris every chance it had. Dawson Cook scored the final goal on a rush and deflated what had been a raucous Pegula Ice Arena. Penn State pulled Jones with plenty of time left and had a ton of high-quality chances, but Morris stole the show and ultimately the game in the final period.
- It was probably the right call, but imagine if that first-period disallowed goal counted. Beating Morris three times in the first period would have changed a lot, but only having a two-goal lead meant that the game was far from over.
- Penn State’s top line combined for three goals and four assists, while Trevor Hamilton had a lone assist to round out the team’s scoring. Six skaters had five or more shots on goal, but Notre Dame (and especially Morris) did a great job neutralizing players like Denis Smirnov and Nate Sucese.
- The Nittany Lions didn’t make a ton of mistakes, but they paid on seemingly every one. They were the better team in the first period, bits of the second, and the last half of the third, and they allowed five goals outside of those moments.
- Morris put on an absolute clinic at the end of the third period. Any other goalie Penn State has faced this season would’ve allowed at least one goal on the late surge, but he was perfect.
- The teams will meet again at 4 p.m. today at Pegula. The game isn’t televised, the last time that will be the case for Penn State this season.