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Third-Period Collapse Dooms No. 18 Penn State Hockey Against No. 17 Notre Dame

No. 18 Penn State men’s hockey (18-13-2, 10-12-1 Big Ten) started its final weekend series of the 2018-19 regular season with a 5-4 overtime loss to No. 17 Notre Dame (18-12-3, 11-10-2 Big Ten) in South Bend.

The loss is a devastating blow to the team’s narrow hopes of making the NCAA Tournament. Ludvig Larsson, Liam Folkes, Nate Sucese, and Brandon Biro all found the back of the net for the Nittany Lions, but it wasn’t enough. Ultimately, the Nittany Lions couldn’t hold on to their two-goal lead in the third period, and a controversial late penalty from Nikita Pavlychev cost them the game in overtime.

Peyton Jones finished with 35 saves on 40 shots, but the porous defense in front of him should carry the burden of tonight’s loss.

How It Happened

Nikita Pavlychev gave the Fighting Irish their first break of the night when he got sent to the box for two minutes for tripping 6:24 into the game. Notre Dame was relentless on the early power play, but Penn State’s defense rose to the challenge in front of Peyton Jones.

Notre Dame’s offense built off of the power play, keeping the Nittany Lions on their heels. The Irish finally broke through with 6:30 remaining in the period — or so they thought. Jake Pivonka fired a wrist shot past Jones, but the goal was overturned after a long review process for too many men on the ice. The overturned goal killed Notre Dame’s momentum and opened the door for the Nittany Lions to play their brand of hockey.

After a handful of scoring chances, Penn State finally got on the board with 1:27 remaining in the first period. Ludvig Larsson made a terrific play to get into the high slot and fired a shot on net. Denis Smirnov was in perfect position to bury the rebound to make it 1-0 Penn State before the first period drew to a close.

Not missing a beat, Penn State shot out of the gate in the second period, as it only took 13 seconds for Liam Folkes to strike. Nate Sucese punched in another rebound five minutes later for Penn State to make it 3-0 Nittany Lions.

Soon after, Evan Bell got called for hooking with 14:13 remaining in the period, and Notre Dame’s power play wasted little time. Matt Hellickson scored in just 11 seconds to make it 3-1.

The offensive production slowed down a little bit after all of the excitement early in the middle period, but Brandon Biro jammed the puck through Cale Morris’ five-hole with 6:25 left to extend Penn State’s lead to 4-1.

Notre Dame answered on a one-timer that trickled past Jones. Penn State’s netminder thought he had a save, but Cal Burke rushed in behind him and tucked the puck in. The Nittany Lions’ lead was cut in half before the second intermission.

With 15:13 left in regulation, the Fighting Irish pulled within one goal, as Mike O’Leary snuck a rebound past Jones. Then, with all of the momentum in their favor, they scored an equalizer with 11:01 on the clock. Matt Steeves turned on a one-timer from the slot and placed it high on the top shelf where Jones had no chance of reaching.

In the final minute of regulation, Pavlychev absolutely smoked Alex Steeves in the neutral zone. Upon further review, Pavlychev was given a controversial five minute major and game misconduct for a high hit to the head, which proved to be a death sentence for the Nittany Lions.

Mike O’Leary put the final nail in Penn State’s coffin 1:37 into the 5-on-4 overtime period with the golden goal to secure a 5-4 win for the Fighting Irish.

Takeaways

  • Penn State’s offense was on brand in South Bend, and so was its defense. The Nittany Lions entered the third period with a two-goal lead, but could not hang on. Notre Dame enjoyed plenty of odd-man rushes and constantly found open space in the slot in crucial moments of the game.
  • It may be tempting to blame Nikita Pavlychev for his hit on Alex Steeves that more or less cost Penn State the game, but the contact looked completely incidental on the replay. It’s hard for a 6’8″ guy to run over a much shorter player without it looking egregious, but if you don’t like it, then don’t play hockey — or officiate it for that matter.
  • Penn State, but Penn is short for penalties. The Nittany Lions spent 15 minutes in the sin bin tonight on six penalties. Oppositely, Notre Dame had two penalties for four minutes. The power play was a huge difference maker for the Irish, especially in overtime.

What’s Next

The Nittany Lions will try to end their season on a high note with a win tomorrow when they take on Notre Dame in South Bend at 7 p.m. once again.

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About the Author

Anthony Fiset

Anthony is a senior *gasp* majoring in Economics and a lifetime Costco Executive Member. If you are an employer, please hire him. Otherwise, direct all complaints to [email protected].

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