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No. 17 Penn State Hockey Falls To No. 16 Notre Dame 3-2 In Big Ten Championship Game

No. 17 Penn State men’s hockey (22-15-2, 14-14-1 Big Ten) took on No. 16 Notre Dame (22-13-3, 12-11-2 Big Ten) for the conference title on Saturday evening in a game that ended in a 3-2 loss for the Nittany Lions.

Sam Sternschein and Alec Marsh scored for Guy Gadowsky’s program, but it wasn’t enough to extend the team’s season. Notre Dame will move onto the NCAA tournament with the Big Ten’s automatic bid after repeating as conference champions.

Junior netminder Peyton Jones made 26 saves, and he’ll finish the year 18-12-2 after tonight’s result.

How It Happened

Penn State couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start at a hostile Compton Family Ice Arena. Notre Dame’s Spencer Stastney snuck a backhander past Peyton Jones and opened the scoring with 16:17 left in the first period. Jones failed to secure his near post, and Stastney capitalized.

The Nittany Lions tied the game after a net-mouth scramble five minutes after the opener. Sam Sternschein banged home a rebound just moments after Denis Smirnov was robbed on a breakaway bid. Nikita Pavlychev and Evan Bell were credited with the assists on the sophomore’s ninth goal of the season.

However, the Fighting Irish regained the advantage after a Penn State defensive breakdown found Cal Burke wide open in front of goal. Notre Dame took a 2-1 lead with 3:41 to play in the period after Burke’s 12th of the season.

Penn State bounced back less than 30 seconds later — a Brandon Biro shot tipped off Alec Marsh’s body to tie the game at two with 3:07 left in the opening period. Marsh’s seventh of the season wasn’t the prettiest, but it capped off a high-scoring period in which both teams didn’t necessarily need all that much flash to score.

The tension of a championship game began to set in during the second period, which nearly ended scoreless after a host of chances from both teams. A Cam Morrison snipe past Jones gave the Fighting Irish a 3-2 lead late in the second. His team took that advantage into the second intermission despite being outshot 36-22 by the Nittany Lions.

Notre Dame put together a near-perfect third period to secure its second consecutive conference title. Penn State managed to muster just 12 shots on goal throughout the final 20 minutes as its season came to a close.

Takeaways

  • Cale Morris once again reinforced his status as one of college hockey’s elite goalies in tonight’s game. Morris made 46 saves tonight, and he stifled the vast majority of Penn State’s chances — something that not many goaltenders have been able to do this season.
  • In addition to Morris, the Notre Dame defensemen deserve a ton of credit for neutralizing Penn State’s top line of Alex Limoges, Evan Barratt, and Liam Folkes. The trio appeared to set the tone tonight with a strong opening shift, but it failed to generate much else for the remainder of the game.
  • Unlike most conference championship games, goals were flowing in throughout the first 20 minutes of tonight’s contest. They weren’t all pretty — Sam Sternschein cashed in on a net-front scramble, and Alec Marsh got a fortuitous bounce to tie the game at two — but it was a stark contrast from the Nittany Lions’ last Big Ten title game appearance in 2017.

What’s Next

In all likelihood, Penn State’s season is over after tonight’s defeat. Unless they receive an unlikely at-large bid, the Nittany Lions’ stretch of consecutive years qualifying for the NCAA tournament will end at two.

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

Mikey is a senior majoring in journalism and Onward State's Sports Editor. He grew up in Bedminster, NJ and is way too obnoxious about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is hard. If you're dying to see more hockey/golf content on your timeline, you can follow Mikey on Twitter @mikey_mandarino. Send all hate mail, death threats, and your vote for the best chicken parm in State College to [email protected]

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