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No. 7 Penn State Hockey Edges Out No. 15 Notre Dame 4-2

No. 7 Penn State hockey (13-5-0, 7-3-0 Big Ten) defeated the 15th-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-7-2, 4-3-2 Big Ten) at Compton Family Ice Arena oon Friday night.

The Nittany Lions trailed Notre Dame for the majority of this game, but in one two-minute momentum-changing sequence in the third period, they managed to score a goal to tie the game, draw an after-the-whistle penalty, and take the lead on the power play to secure a huge, huge victory in Big Ten play. Denis Smirnov, Paul DeNaples, Evan Barratt, and Aarne Talvitie each registered a goal in tonight’s contest, while Brandon Biro and Cole Hults each secured two assists apiece.

In an incredibly chippy and fast-paced battle in which Notre Dame seemed to neutralize Penn State’s high-powered offense, Peyton Jones kept the Nittany Lions in this one with an absolutely stellar performance, making 40 saves on 42 shots.

How It Happened

The first five minutes involved a lot of physical play and back-and-forth hockey with big scoring chances from both teams. 

The Nittany Lions were the first team to receive a power play after a delay of game call on Notre Dame six minutes into the action. Their power play unit looked strong and spent nearly the entire two-minute minor in the Fighting Irish’s zone, but the unit couldn’t cash in.

Notre Dame struck first with 7:46 left in first when Kris Myllari couldn’t regain control of a puck near the net, which then bounced off Peyton Jones’ skate and into the net.

The teams exchanged penalties early in the second period, but neither power play unit could cash in. That changed, however, when Denis Smirnov potted his seventh goal of the season.

Once the teams returned to five-on-five hockey, Penn State finally got on the board when Smirnov received a crisp feed from Brandon Biro from the Penn State defensive zone to the Irish blue line, beat the Notre Dame defender to the net and delivered a beautiful backhand finish.

It seemed like these two teams were going to battle it out without another goal, but a crazy bounce put the puck back in Notre Dame’s possession and caught Peyton Jones out of the crease and unable to set himself back up again before the Irish could put the puck in.

Referees reviewed the play for minutes, but they deemed the out-of-the-crease contact between Jones and Irish winger Cam Morrison to be fair play.

Despite that bit of bad luck, the Nittany Lions tied it back up fairly quickly when Paul DeNaples went bar-down on a scorching wrister with assists from Cole Hults and Brandon Biro. DeNaples isn’t known for his goal-scoring prowess, but his tally was a rocket that beat star goalie Cale Morris cleanly.

To make matters worse for Notre Dame, Irish center Michael Graham got called for an after-the-whistle penalty directly following the goal, and that put the Nittany Lions on the power play in one hell of a momentum swing.

Penn State used the power play opportunity to take control of the contest. The power play unit finally got on board with an Evan Barratt tap-in from a beautiful feed from Aarne Talvitie, and that gave Penn State the 3-2 lead and its second goal in two minutes.

After taking the lead, Penn State, led by a determined Peyton Jones, managed to run the clock out, but not without their hiccups. Notre Dame saw possibly more offensive chances in the last eight minutes of the game than it had in the first 52, but the defense was up to the task and shut down the Fighting Irish.

As soon as the Irish pulled their goalie for a 6-on-5 advantage, Aarne Talvitie won a faceoff and instantly raced up the ice and put one away to seal a 4-2 Penn State victory.

Takeaways

  • Adam Pilewicz, who’s only played in two games this season prior to tonight, onto the top line to replace star wing Alex Limoges, who was scratched for undisclosed reasons.
  • If it weren’t for an unlucky bounce off Kris Myllari’s stick in front of the net and an unlucky rebound that caught him out of the net, Peyton Jones would’ve stopped every shot that came his way tonight. This was perhaps the most impressive performance of an already-impressive season for the senior goaltender, who picked up his 70th career victory on Friday night.
  • Although Penn State’s power play unit is currently the third-most productive in the country, it fell awfully flat during this first two periods against Notre Dame, going 0-for-2. It wasn’t until that post-goal power play in the third period where the unit found its footing and was able to put one home for the eventual game-winning goal.

What’s Next

Penn State will be back in the (straight outta) Compton Family Ice Arena tomorrow night for game two against Notre Dame. Puck drop is scheduled for 6 p.m.

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About the Author

Matthew Ogden

Matthew Ogden is a senior double majoring in Marketing and Journalism. He resides in South Jersey and is the cohost of Onward State's podcast, Podward State, and the blog's preeminent expert on Kanye West. Email him your favorite Spotify playlists to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @MattOgden98.

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