Irish split weekend against Nittany Lions behind improved special teams play
Thomas Zwiller | Sunday, December 11, 2022
The No. 19 Notre Dame men’s hockey team hosted No. 5 Penn State in a Big Ten conference series this weekend. After Penn State scored three times late on Friday night in a 5-2 win, the Irish used a four-goal scoring run to secure a 5-3 victory and the series split.
After an official review to ensure Penn State did not have an early goal, Notre Dame got on the board first.
After a shot from the point was saved by Penn State goalie Liam Souliere, the puck ended up in the low corner. sophomore defenseman Jake Boltman gained control, passing the puck to senior forward Jesse Lansdell. Lansdell was hit and did not catch the pass, which instead traveled along the boards to classmate Trevor Janicke. Janicke saw Lansdell moving to the net and hit him with a pass, and Lansdell scored the series’ first goal.
With 2:30 left in the first, Penn State found the equalizer thanks to forward Connor McMenamin. McMenamin received a pass from center Ture Linde, walking it into the slot and beating Notre Dame senior goaltender Ryan Bischel.
Almost immediately after Penn State tied it, they took possession in the offensive zone, leading to a scrum in front of the Irish goal. Penn State’s Christian Berger knocked the puck free, and Tyler Paquette took brief possession of it. Paquette made a quick pass to Paul DeNaples, and DeNaples took a shot from the point, which found twine.
Bischel had a hard time tracking the puck once it got to the point, with Irish junior forward Grant Sillianoff and Boltman both in his vision.
Though the Irish trailed 1-2 after the first, they had a strong performance overall.
A tripping call on Notre Dame interrupted the flow of a back-and-forth second period. While the penalty kill has been a struggle for the Irish this season, Notre Dame handled the Nittany Lions’ power play efficiently, killing the penalty.
Head coach Jeff Jackson was pleased with the effort on special teams. “I thought our PK did a good job, and our power play scored a goal, so, in that regard, that was a positive.”
The following penalty called was on Penn State’s Jimmy Down for interference. While Penn State could not get much going on their power play, Notre Dame scored 13 seconds into theirs, with 1:52 left in the second.
As Notre Dame took control of the puck in the Penn State zone, graduate defenseman Chase Blackmun found classmate and Notre Dame captain Nick Leivermann. Leivermann saw junior forward Ryder Rolston sitting wide open at the point. Rolston took possession of the puck and found an open net left of Souliere, tying the game up at two all.
The third began for the Irish with a penalty kill after Chase Blackmun went to the box for interference. The power play was largely unproductive for the Nittany Lions, and the Irish were able to kill it off.
The Nittany Lions would not stay unproductive for long. As the game crossed into the last eight minutes, a wrap-around goal by Penn State’s Connor MacEachern put them ahead with little time remaining.
With a little over two minutes left, Jackson pulled Bischel to get the extra attacker, but Penn State forced a turnover, and Dylan Gratton’s shot from his own zone made it to the Irish net.
A DeNaples empty-net goal put Penn State up 5-2, effectively ending the game and earning the Nittany Lions the first game of the series.
Penn State won the opening faceoff and controlled the flow of the game for the first ten minutes of the period. Though Notre Dame did have offensive possessions in which they generated chances, they did not register a shot on goal until 10:18. Penn State had seven.
However, the result more than made up for the wait.
Nick Leivermann had one of the best assists of the season, bouncing the puck off his stick four times as he progressed up the ice before passing to Ryder Rolston, who beat Souliere from outside the faceoff dot.
The second period saw Penn State’s Wall score the equalizer, and the game seemed to be headed to a tie after the first two periods.
But with a minute left on the clock, sophomore forward Tyler Carpenter blocked a shot, got possession, and carried it through the neutral zone.
As Carpenter entered the zone, a Penn State defender jockeyed for control of the puck, shoulder to shoulder, until Carpenter slid the puck to sophomore forward Justin Janicke. Janicke caught the pass and beat Souliere blocker side, giving the Irish a goal advantage heading into the third.
Early in the third, Penn State defenseman Jimmy Dowd Jr. went to the penalty box, putting the Irish on the powerplay. In Notre Dame’s second man-up advantage of the game, Irish grad student Jackson Pierson beat Souliere. The goal came from an attempt on the point, while Lansdell and Trevor Janicke screened Souliere’s vision.
Notre Dame continued their dominant run in the third period when graduate student forward Jack Adams beat Souliere glove side, putting the Irish up 4-1. A Landon Slaggert empty net goal gave the Irish a 5-1 advantage.
As Penn State fans began to head for the exits, Connon McMenamin scored on the Irish to make it a 5-2 game. After a roughing call on Solag Bakich (his second of the night) gave Penn State a man advantage, the Nittany Lions pulled Souliere to go up two men.
The strategy paid off, and the Lions scored the last goal of the night with 1:01 left to make it a 5-3 game.
The split with Penn State allowed the Irish to keep pace with Michigan in the Big 10 standings. Both teams now have 12 points and trail fourth-place Ohio State by three points. Penn State sits second with twenty-two points and trails first-place Minnesota by eight.
The Irish now turn their attention to 7-7-2 Alaska. Coach Jackson believes that Alaska can pose a significant challenge to the Irish.
“They gave Penn State all it could handle at Penn State. Last year they knocked off Minnesota after Christmas. They are an older team that is very well-coached, they’re structured, and they’re hard to play against. It is probably not going to be a whole lot different than [Penn State], except maybe they don’t have the same firepower.”
The Irish host Alaska at Compton on Saturday, Dec. 31, and Sunday, Jan. 1.