Irish able to stifle No. 8 Penn State on the road
Jimmy Ward | Monday, February 3, 2020
After their first contest resulted in a tie, the Notre Dame hockey team defeated No. 8 Penn State on the road this weekend in front of a Nittany Lion (17-9-2, 9-7-2 B1G) crowd in University Park.
Although the first game of the series resulted in a tie, the Irish (12-11-5, 7-7-4) did not come away completely empty-handed. As they trailed 3-2 to the eighth-ranked team in the nation with less than two minutes remaining in the third, two sophomore forwards, Alex Steeves and Michael Graham connected to knot the game up for the Irish. Steeves found an open Graham who would score the late game-tying goal for the Irish.
The overtime period would come and go with no scoring and the teams would head into a shootout to determine the winner of the Big Ten point. Senior goaltender Cale Morris would stop seven attempts on his net in the shootout period and the game would be determined when sophomore forward Cam Burke snuck a shot past the Nittany Lion’s goaltender to earn the conference point. It mustered up some confidence in the Irish locker room, who had recorded just one win over their past six games, ending a dry spell that started in early January when the Irish played host to Michigan.
Though the confidence for the Irish was finally there, the Nittany Lions certainly did not want to take a loss to the Irish, who sat six games behind them in the conference standings.
The second game would be just as hotly contested as the first and the Nittany Lion faithful would show out in full force, filling Pegula Ice Arena to capacity. The Irish would jump to an early lead in the first period after notching two goals against the Penn State defense, but the next period would see the Nittany Lions start to mount a comeback.
In contrast from their typical play this season the Irish were able to shut down three of three of the Nittany Lions’ power play opportunities.
To prove to Irish head coach Jeff Jackson that they were in fact listening to him, they not only killed all the penalty opportunities of the evening but even got on the board first with a short-handed goal from senior forward Cam Morrison, his first short-handed goal of his career and the first short-handed goal of the year for the Irish. Morrison flew down the length of the ice, beating every defender, and dumped the puck in for the first Irish goal, giving Notre Dame a 1-0 lead.
Senior forward Cal Burke would push the Irish lead to 2-0 with a hair over six minutes remaining in the first period. This lead would hold up for the remainder of the first and the Irish would head into the locker room for the first intermission, sitting pretty with the Nittany Lions’ score on the board still a goose egg.
After 20 more minutes of action, Penn State was able to put up one goal to shrink their deficit to just 1-2. The tide would turn in the final period, however, when Nittany Lions senior forward Nikita Pavlychev was able to slip one past Morris to tie up the game, 2-2.
Irish sophomore forward Graham Slaggert would score the eventual game winning goal with exactly five minutes remaining in the third period, and the Irish would come away with their second win in their last eight games against a team ranked No. 8 in the country. Morris would finish the game with 23 saves in net and coach Jackson would praise his effort after the game.
“He has slowly started to get his confidence back,” Jackson said. “He started off the season with an injury, was out six weeks and it took him another six weeks to really get going. He has had some good games for us here over the last month and we are only going to go as far as he takes us. He is the backbone of our team and he stood strong tonight against a really good offensive team.”
The Irish will get some rest this week with a bye and will return to action on Valentine’s Day, playing host to Minnesota in Compton Family Ice Arena.