UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – No. 8/9 Penn State’s comeback bid fell short as Notre Dame scored late and walked out of the Hockey Valley White Rush with a 4-2 victory in Big Ten Conference action on Saturday night at Pegula Ice Arena.
The Nittany Lions fall to 17-9-2 on the year and 9-7-2-0 in conference play with the loss while the Irish improve to 12-11-5 overall and 7-7-4-3 in Big Ten action following the victory.
HOW IT HAPPENED
* Notre Dame opened the scoring for the second consecutive night taking advantage of an errant pass during a Penn State power-play as Cam Morrison was able to skate in uncontested and beat PSU senior net-minder Peyton Jones (Langhorne, Pa.) through the five-hole for the short-handed goal and the 1-0 lead at 6:39 of the first period.
* The Irish extended the lead with another breakaway goal as Tory Dello flipped a pass to Cal Burke who beat his defender and then beat Jones low for the 2-0 lead at 13:26 of the opening stanza.
* The Nittany Lions cut the deficit in half midway through the second period as senior Liam Folkes (Scarborough, Ontario) caused a turnover behind the Irish net and junior Evan Barratt (Bristol, Pa.) set up classmate Alex Limoges (Winchester, Va.) for a one-timer in the low slot that beat Notre Dame goaltender Cale Morris over the glove for the 2-1 score at the 9:23 mark.
* Penn State secured the equalizer as senior Nikita Pavlychev (Yaroslavl, Russia) jumped off the bench and into the attacking zone and slipped a shot through Morris after sophomore Paul DeNaples (Moscow, Pa.) ripped a shot intentionally wide for the 2-2 score at 6:10 of the third period.
* Notre Dame once again slipped behind the PSU defense to regain the lead as Spencer Stastney sent a perfect tape-to-tape pass to Graham Slaggert and he finished over the blocker of Jones for the 3-2 lead at the 15:00 mark.
* Tory Dello then hit the empty net with one minute remaining in the contest to account for the 4-2 final.
Jones drops to 15-8-1 on the year after turning aside 30-of-33 shots while Morris improves to 9-10-5 overall following a 23 save performance.
Opening statement: This one hurts for a couple of reasons, one because it was such an amazing crowd and it looked so good and they were so into it, and we just were not mentally prepared at the start. We weren’t mentally prepared for a great game, we were not mentally prepared to compete. What I mean is, the other team that we faced had other plans and we did not match their mental toughness at the start and we payed for it. It just hurts so much because it was such a great crowd and so great to look at. Man, it hurts to waste that performance by our supporters.
Q: Do you attribute that slow start in the first period to nerves?
A: I don’t think so. It wasn’t like we were skating poorly, it was communication, mental, just not quite… I can’t explain it. But I don’t think it was jitters.
Q: Do you think that everyone is playing as a team right now, as much as you need them to?
A: No, and specifically by comparison. Our game is much different than our opponents, but I guarantee that tonight they had a much higher percentage of their parts that were 100% in. That’s how I feel. I stand by that statement. I don’t mean that they’re playing for themselves. Our game is difficult to play, it is. A lot of people dummy it down but don’t understand it, it’s difficult to play. I think that on any given night we have about 80% that are doing it, and about 20% are hoping that the other 80% will make up for them, and it’s not enough, not now; the stakes are raised. Honestly, it’s just the stakes are raised, and we weren’t going to win that one.
* Notre Dame held the 34-25 edge in shots while going 3-for-3 on the penalty kill, but 0-for-2 on the power-play.
* Saturday night’s crowd of 6,475 is a new Pegula Ice Arena Attendance record passing the previous record of 6,370 which has stood since the opening night back in 2013.
* Limoges played in his 100th career game on Saturday night and following his second period goal he is now just four shots shy of the 100-point plateau.
* With a goal in back-to-back games, Pavlychev has now scored six career goals against the Irish to lead all Nittany Lions.
* Penn State falls to 10-5-3 all-time against Notre Dame.
* Freshman Connor McMenamin (Collegeville, Pa.) sees his career-best four-game point streak snapped as he was held off the scoresheet.
* Currently the Nittany Lions remain in sole possession of first place in the Big Ten with 29 points, while Notre Dame leaps into a tie for second at 28 points with idle Michigan State following a five-point weekend.
Penn State hits the road for a mini four-game road swing starting in Columbus against the 11th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes next Friday and Saturday evening.