The Nittany Lions were able to put four goals past Cale Morris, but fell to Notre Dame by a final of 5-4 despite a late comeback effort.
Penn State started the game as well as it possibly could have with an Aarne Talvitie goal just 1:10 into the first period. Talvitie picked up the puck in the defensive zone, carried it deep into the offensive zone, and beat Cale Morris high blocker side with his patented wrist shot. Notre Dame would not be pushed around and answered with a goal of their own three minutes later. Cam Morrison won the puck behind the net and passed it to Matt Hellickson who was able to beat Chris Funkey. Penn State was able to draw a couple penalties later on in the period and had a couple great scoring chances, but couldn’t put another puck past Morris. The Lions had a 13-2 lead in shots after the first period.
Aarne Talvitie (5)
Matt Hellickson (2)
Cam Morrison (5)
Mike O'Leary (2)
Cole Hults (3)
Andrew Peeke (2)
Denis Smirnov (4)
Matt Steeves (1)
Nate Sucese (7)
Notre Dame came out on the front foot at the start of the second and was able to take a 2-1 lead two and a half minutes into the period after Morrison beat Funkey. Notre Dame’s Mike O’Leary joined in on the fun with a goal just over a minute later and that was it for Funkey who finished with three saves on six shots. Oskar Autio made his Nittany Lion debut and boy did he make a solid first impression. Autio made a handful of outstanding saves to keep Penn State in the game, and then Brandon Biro turned in one of his best shifts as a Nittany Lion that set up a Cole Hults goal. Penn State had the momentum and a power play after a Notre Dame kneeing penalty. But keeping with the theme of this season, the Lions took a stupid penalty, and Notre Dame scored on their ensuing power play after Andrew Peeke beat Autio to the top corner of the net. The second period ended with Notre Dame up 4-2.
To Penn State’s credit, they worked hard to earn the momentum back at the start of the third period. Denis Smirnov capitalized on Penn State’s possession and scored a highlight reel goal at 6:30. Smirnov picked up the puck at the blue line, skated around four golden domes, and the roofed a backhanded shot into the top of the net past Morris. But again, Notre Dame had an almost immediate answer. Ninety seconds after Smirnov’s goal, Matt Steeves poked a greasy puck past Autio’s near post to regain Notre Dame’s two-goal lead. The Lions showed a lot of character after giving up the fifth goal and refused to make things easy for Notre Dame, and again brought the deficit back down to one goal. At 14:58, Ludvig Larsson swung a puck towards the net from the right faceoff dot, and a crashing Nate Sucese was there to put it past Morris. The Lions kept up the pressure and got a couple great chances with the extra skater in the last two minutes of the game, but Morris and Notre Dame’s defense were up to the task and completed the 5-4 victory.
- This was the first time that a team has scored four goals on Notre Dame since the Irish’s second game of the season all the way back on October 12th, and that’s no small feat. Every time Penn State needed a goal early in the game to keep the game close, it was able to put a puck past Morris. Smirnov had one of the best goals of the year, Talvitie again showed that his shot is NHL caliber, and Larsson had two assists and was all over the ice. When Penn State is playing its best, it can score against and beat anyone.
- When Penn State isn’t playing well, its defense is a straight up liability. They didn’t play as poorly tonight as they did against Wisconsin last Saturday, but every time the game was close, they weren’t ready for Notre Dame’s counter punch.
- Oskar Autio for starting goalie. Guy said that Autio passed his first test as an NCAA goalie with flying colors. The saves he made right after coming into the game kept Penn State in it. With a little extra polishing, the younger Autio will be the best goalie on Penn State’s roster, and I think we should give him the keys to the car.
- Cale Morris is definitely the best goalie in the country and is probably the best player in the country. As a general hockey fan, watching him play is incredible. Notre Dame feeds off him every game and never lets a moment get the better of them. Tonight, they played great defense despite giving up four goals, and once again, Morris had the Lions’ number.