One of the biggest and most important upsets in program history was so close and yet so far away. The better team doesn’t always win the game, especially if the best player is on the other team. No. 17 Penn State took it to No. 2 Notre Dame all afternoon on Saturday, looking to rebound from a 5-3 loss the night before. The Golden Domer’s Cale Morris put on an unbelievable show in net for the, stealing a sure loss and turning it into a tie and shootout win.
Penn State came out scorching in Friday’s game to take an early lead, but it saw different results on Saturday. The same energy was there, but it was Notre Dame that went up 2-0 in less than 10 minutes. First, Peyton Jones mishandled a soft shot and allowed a rebound to get to Cal Burke, then four minutes later, contact in the crease got him out of position as Dylan Malmquist made the score 2-0. The Nittany Lions needed someone to breathe life into them, so obviously Andrew Sturtz buried a rebound at the end of the period to cut the lead in half.
The Nittany Lions started the second period on the powerplay and despite not converting on it, they kept the puck alive and tired out the Irish defense long enough to let Liam Folkes beat Morris and tie the game. That proved to be the only goal of the period, although Penn State could have had more. By the end of the frame, the Lions led 39-20 in shots, but Morris and Jones had made the same number of mistakes.
Notre Dame began climbing back in the shot department in the first half of the third period, outshooting Penn State by a decent margin in that span. Both teams had a wealth of chances though, and Morris and Jones went shot-for-shot throughout to reach overtime.
The thriller continued throughout overtime, especially for Penn State fans. The Lions were by far the better-looking team in the five minutes of sudden-death, but Morris made a huge stop on James Robinson on a rush, and with a minute left, stoned Andrew Sturtz on a penalty shot.
Because it’s never easy, the game ended in a tie with an extra point available in a shootout. Smirnov, Folkes, and Sturtz were stopped by Morris, while Oglevie and Malmquist were stoned by Jones, but Jordan Gross netted the winner for Notre Dame.
- Penn State’s winless streak extends to seven. In the context of one game, it’s a huge accomplishment to go the distance with Notre Dame; in the context of the season, Penn State is plummeting in the Big Ten standings and may not get to host a home playoff game.
- Just when the team finally got healthy, Erik Autio went down on Friday and missed Saturday’s game. Derian Hamilton had a fine game replacing him alongside Cole Hults, but a bye week may be coming at the perfect time for a blue-line that missed one of its best players.
- I hope I never have to see Cale Morris play again unless it’s for an NHL team I like. He brought a .952 save percentage into this weekend and somehow improved on it. He stopped 45-of-48 on Friday then 55-of-57 on Saturday. Against most other teams with Morris, this series would probably have been a sweep for Penn State. Morris was so awesome and so frustrating.
- The Nittany Lions are off next week before heading to East Lansing the week after, with a chance for a late-season turnaround against the worst team in the Big Ten. After that, they’ll have Minnesota at home in the last series before the postseason.