The defending champs are out. Penn State, riding a five-game win streak and defending its Big Ten trophy, was knocked out of the tournament by Notre Dame on Saturday as a last-minute goal crushed its hopes of repeating. Playoff Peyton Jones was in top form, but so was Cale Morris as the Fighting Irish rode home-ice advantage to the championship game.
Notre Dame started the scoring despite the usual hot start from Penn State. Minutes after Trevor Hamilton set the tone with a huge hit, Jordan Gross floated a shot from the point that found a hole and slipped past Jones. Sucese tied things up with eight minutes to go in the period after Brandon Biro had one of the best assists of the year. Cale Morris was solved early, much to Penn State’s relief. Andrew Peeke retook the lead soon after, but Biro scored one of his own after he hopped over the boards, beat Gross, and beat Morris to tie it 2-2.
Brandon Biro didn't need any help tying the game. pic.twitter.com/RSbkpg2exR— Roar Lions Roar (@RLRblog) March 10, 2018
Both goalies stood on their heads in the second period, which had an even greater pace than the first. Penn State’s lines centered by Sucese and Barratt both continued their hot games, but Morris and Jones owned the frame. Both teams traded bruises and penalties, but neither was any closer to clinching a berth in the Big Ten Championship.
The first two chaotic periods felt tame compared to the third. The refs kept their whistles in their pockets as the teams traded rushes and counterattacks, and Jones and Morris each had their share of scrambles in front of their nets. Penn State and Notre Dame were equally great in the first two periods, but the former might have had the edge in the final one; if any other goalie were in net, the Lions probably would’ve buried at least one. But with 30 seconds left, the Irish chipped the puck in deep and Penn State got caught puck-watching. Jack Jenkins was left unmarked and, after a couple whacks at the puck, beat Jones short-side for the game-winner.
- Penn State ain’t done though. It has off next week during the Big Ten Championship, but it has very-close-to-officially clinched a spot in the NCAA Tournament the week after. It’ll be placed in Allentown’s PPL Center for the two-game regional, so it’ll have two near-home games to try and reach its first Frozen Four.
- Notre Dame is now 5-0 against Penn State this year. Part of me doesn’t want Penn State to have to play them again in the NCAA Tournament...and part of me very much does.
- Peyton Jones, reigning Big Ten Tournament MVP, saves his best games for the playoffs. He had a season-high in saves tonight, and he gave his team a chance to win despite being outshot.
- Penn State absolutely passed the eye test the last three weeks. It doesn’t have the momentum that led to the 10-3 shellacking of Union in the NCAA Tournament last year, but it definitely has the talent to use the home crowds it’ll have in Allentown to make a run.
- The Nittany Lions will be back in action Saturday, March 24, time and opponent TBA. If they win, they move on to the second round the next day.