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Penn State Men’s Hockey Drops Final Regular Season Game To Notre Dame 7-1

Penn State men’s hockey (9-11, 7-11 Big Ten) dropped a brutal game to Notre Dame (14-12-2, 11-10-2 Big Ten) 7-1 on Saturday to end the regular season.

Christian Sarlo scored the lone goal for the Nittany Lions. Oskar Autio made 21 saves before being pulled for Liam Souliere, who made seven saves on nine shots. Graduate student Will Holtforster also saw action, making three saves on four shots.

Christian Berger was assessed a game misconduct for contact to the head and was ejected from the game. Jimmy Dowd Jr. and Clayton Phillips also both suffered injuries and did not return to the game.

Trevor Janicke scored two goals for Notre Dame while Alex Steeves, Jake Pivonka, Jesse Lansdell, Max Ellis, and Graham Slaggert each added a goal. Dylan St. Cyr made 37 saves on 38 shots and senior Nick Sanford got to play on senior night, making one save.

How It Happened

Notre Dame started the game on the front foot, but it would be Penn State who would strike first. Alex Limoges found Sarlo streaking behind the Irish defense and his backhander squeaked by St. Cyr for the 1-0 lead at the 8:33 mark of the first period.

Two minutes later, Notre Dame had a golden chance on a breakaway but Autio made a spectacular sprawling save to preserve the Nittany Lion lead.

With five minutes left in the period, Penn State was given a power play. With four seconds left on the power play, Notre Dame was called for another hooking penalty, giving Penn State a short 5-on-3 that then became another regular power play. Steeves had the best chance of the man advantage while short handed, but Autio stonewalled the Irish forward on the breakaway for the second time to start the game.

That would be the final action of the first frame as Penn State went into the intermission up 1-0. The Nittany Lions also led in shots 14-12.

It took only 33 seconds into the second period for Notre Dame to tie the game. Steeves buried his 15th goal of the season when he found a way behind the Nittany Lions and sniped a shot high glove side on Autio to tie the game.

The Irish would take the lead a few minutes later. A Penn State turnover in the neutral zone found the stick of Pivonka and he fired a shot from the slot past Autio to make it a 2-1 game about five minutes into the second period. 2-1 soon became 3-1 when Janicke deflected a shot past Autio at the 8:23 mark of the period.

Both teams would skate 4-on-4 with about seven minutes left in the period after a scrum that occurred because of what Penn State thought was a high hit on Limoges. No one would score, but Notre Dame would get its first power play of the game with 1:30 left in the period when Evan Bell was called for tripping. The Irish wouldn’t score in the first 1:30 as the second period ended 3-1 in Notre Dame’s favor. Penn State led in shots 28-24.

The Irish started the final frame on the power play but couldn’t convert. The Notre Dame onslaught would continue when a bad Penn State turnover led to Lansdell putting a shot short side past Autio for the 4-1 lead 1:30 in the third period.

Shortly after, Berger was assessed a game misconduct for hitting a Irish player in the head with his stick. Mason Snell was also penalized for a scrum that occurred post Berger penalty, meaning Notre Dame would have a 5-on-3 power play and Berger was ejected from the game. Gadowsky also decided to make a goalie change, pulling Autio for Souliere after allowing four goals on 25 shots.

Penn State’s penalty killers did a great job and killed off the major penalty. Janicke would eventually make it 5-1 Notre Dame with 8:34 left in the game, however.

Ellis would make it 6-1 with four minutes left in the game. Souliere and St. Cyr would both be pulled for each team, giving seniors Holtforster and Sanford a chance to play on senior day in South Bend. Graham Slaggert would score goal seven.

Takeaways

  • It’s easy to see how disconnected the Nittany Lions are, especially in the neutral zone and in transition. At the start of the season, Gadowsky stressed the importance of protecting the puck in all three-zones, specifically the neutral zone. Penn State has regressed back into its old ways that lead it to an 0-5 start to the season. Puck possession is something the Nittany Lions need to improve on if they want any chance in the postseason.
  • Fatigue is also a factor. Not only have the Nittany Lions not played, but they had minimal practice time during the coronavirus shutdown the team had. We saw it in the first game on Friday when Penn State came out strong and slowed down. Hopefully for the Nittany Lions’ sake, this series will help them find their legs before next week.
  • Penn State and Notre Dame are going to play each other in the Big Ten tournament this weekend, and this series was a great opportunity for the teams to scout each other out. Penn State’s success against Notre Dame will come if it can shut down the S-S-S line of Steeves and the Slaggert brothers. Penn State has beaten Notre Dame this season already, so the ability is there, but the main question remans: can the Nittany Lions stay together mentally and make a run for the Big Ten title?

What’s Next

The Nittany Lions will face off against the Fighting Irish for the fifth straight game, this time in the Big Ten Tournament quarter finals. A Penn State loss would mean the end of the Nittany Lions’ season. That game is scheduled for Sunday, March 14 at noon in South Bend.

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About the Author

Connor Donohue

Connor is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. He hails from the great state of New Jersey and is proud of it. Lover of the greatest city in the world, New York City, he strongly dislikes the city of Philadelphia and will not hesitate to tell you that. He's also been cursed as a Penn State fan since birth. If you want to call him a bum or maybe go out on a date with him, follow him on twitter @ConnorDonohue00 or email him at [email protected]

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