Penn State Men’s Hockey’s Resilience Evident In Notre Dame Series
Penn State men’s hockey kicked off its Big Ten schedule this past weekend and tied both games against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Pegula Ice Arena.
The Nittany Lions and Fighting Irish tied 3-3 in the first game, but the visitors won the shootout to earn the extra Big Ten point. The script was reversed the following evening, as the two teams tied 2-2, and Penn State walked away with the extra point in the shootout win.
The Nittany Lions entered the series boasting a 5-2-0 record, albeit with questions surrounding the team’s ability to win the second game of its series. While the result on the ice last weekend wasn’t exactly what the team wanted, the group’s resilience in game two is something positive.
The Nittany Lions trailed 1-0 in the second period on Sunday when Xander Lamppa scored a goal that was waved off. The explanation to Guy Gadowsky was that the play was automatically stopped because the goaltender’s chin strap became dislodged. Gadowsky, who seldom criticizes the officiating, said after the game he disagreed with the call. The Irish stretched their lead to 2-0 shortly after.
However, the group battled back with two goals in the third period with the latter coming in the last minute of regulation. After neither team scored in overtime, the Nittany Lions won 1-0 in the shootout to earn an extra point.
“I felt like we just stuck to the script, and we knew we were eventually going to score,” Lamppa said. “I think, in the back of our heads, we always knew we were going to score.”
“We were down 2-0 going into the third against a really good team, and I think there wasn’t one guy in that room that didn’t believe we could come back,” goaltender Liam Souliere added.
Notre Dame has been shaky at times this season, but it has a talented roster with several returning players. Perhaps the most notable piece standing in Penn State’s way was Ryan Bischel, who was named the Big Ten Goaltender of the Year last season. He played nearly lights-out during both games, as Penn State had 31 shots in game one and 50 in game two, but only put five of them in the net the whole series aside from shootouts.
Penn State, however, kept its head high and maintained optimism when it trailed. Positive results during shifts and how much offense the Nittany Lions generated only helped reinforce that mindset.
“I think there’s a level of composure and positivity that needs to be just reinforced because we were playing well, we were out-shooting them by a pretty large margin, and I felt like in a lot of our shifts, we were dominating them,” Lamppa said.
Veteran players on the roster led by example at the beginning of the season as everyone was getting back into the swing of college hockey. The younger players started to buy into that mentality, and it’s beginning to yield positive results.
“Our senior class kind of leads by example, and I think that’s starting to trickle down into the younger guys, and it’s starting to come together,” Lamppa said.
Coming together and grinding out a game against a tough opponent is a good sign for the team after longtime player like Paul DeNaples left the program. Other players had to step up and replace him as leaders, and it’s evident the culture remains strong.
It remains to be seen how Penn State will fare against other Big Ten opponents, as its gauntlet of a schedule continues with a trip to Michigan State this weekend. But if there’s anything worth taking away from the season so far, it’s that Penn State is a tough team that simply doesn’t quit.
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Inspired by a truly awful cut three years ago, Shaun Flaherty started cutting hair to fix some questionable cuts from the barbers in upstate New York.
“I couldn’t really think of any other place to do it because everyone is the happiest there.”
Penn State fell to under .500 for the first time this season.