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Notre Dame grinds out split with No. 6 Penn State

| Monday, January 23, 2023

By Ryan Murphy and Tyler Reidy

Fighting Irish hockey obtained one of its strongest results of the season over the weekend in Happy Valley. Notre Dame weathered Penn State’s hostile environment to earn a split, stealing a 2-1 Friday win but dropping Saturday’s game 3-2. The Irish (11-12-3, 6-8-2) now have 20 points and are closing the gap on fourth-place Michigan State in the Big Ten standings. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions (8-7-1, 18-7-1) now carry 27 points and remain in a second-place tie with Ohio State. 

Bischel stymies Nittany Lions in game one

Friday’s game took similar form to December’s series between the two teams in South Bend. Penn State shot the lights out of the puck, but strong goaltending kept the Irish afloat. After Notre Dame fired off the opening shot, the Nittany Lions responded with an 8-1 shooting run in three minutes. Senior goaltender Ryan Bischel calmly stopped all eight, a prefiguration of his night’s work. 

Through 19 minutes, Penn State had opened up the shots on goal margin to 19-5, but the game remained scoreless. However, on the Nittany Lions’ 20th shot, the seal finally broke. Freshman defenseman Jarod Crespo hit Bischel low with a wrister from the high slot, yielding a juicy rebound. The puck found Danny Dzhaniyev to the goalie’s left, and the sophomore forward buried it for his fourth goal of the season. Penn State maintained its one-goal lead to the end of the first period.

Even as the Nittany Lions continued to throw the kitchen sink at Bischel, the Irish countered with sophomore forward Justin Janicke’s efforts. Early in the second period, he stepped up for one of Notre Dame’s 23 blocked shots, turning the defensive play into a breakaway. Junior goaltender Liam Souliere shut him down. However, moments later, Janicke entered the PSU zone and wheeled around the net with the puck. Seeing the play develop, graduate forward Chayse Primeau anchored himself at the back door, and Janicke found him for a tap-in goal. 

After the Omaha transfer’s fifth goal, the Irish thought they had pushed in the go-ahead tally with two seconds remaining. Senior forward Jesse Lansdell confused Souliere by deflecting a long-range shot, leaving the puck loose in the crease. Senior forward Trevor Janicke jammed away at it and started to celebrate a power-play goal. However, the officials ruled that the puck did not completely cross the goal line, and the period ended in a 1-1 deadlock. Penn State’s shooting advantage ballooned to 35-15 — plus a crossbar shot — but the Irish stayed in the fight. One break was all they needed.

Early in the third, Penn State put Notre Dame on its third power-play of the game, and that break appeared. Justin Janicke, whom Souliere had recently denied on another breakaway, had a pair of shots blocked from the left wing. The second one trickled to junior forward Ryder Rolston, who roofed a backhand shot over Souliere’s shoulder for his seventh goal of the 2022-23 campaign. 

Up a goal, the Irish played evenly with the Nittany Lions for much of the third period, killing off two penalties. However, with five minutes remaining, Penn State floored the gas pedal, closing out the game with 15 consecutive shot attempts. The Irish blocked three of them, while Bischel turned away the other 12. 

Souliere gave way to an extra attacker with 1:59 to play, but it was a fruitless effort. Notre Dame somehow hung on for a 2-1 win, and the players knew exactly whom to celebrate: Ryan Bischel. The Irish netminder was absolutely unsolvable, making a career-best 52 saves on 53 shots. Behind his performance and Justin Janicke’s two-assist night, Notre Dame picked up its first official series-opening win since October 28.

Irish falter, split seventh straight series

With an opportunity to rapidly change the direction of their season, the Irish took to the ice on night two in front of a raucous sellout crowd of 6,566 — a new attendance record for Penn State’s ten-year-old Pegula Ice Arena. After 55:33 of intense hockey, the powder keg of fans exploded when Penn State junior forward Christian Sarlo scored the game’s winning goal, giving the Nittany Lions a 3-2 win.

The game had the energy of playoff hockey right from the start. Penn State outpaced the visiting Irish early, drawing off the energy from their home crowd. The momentum reversed 5 minutes into the contest when Nittany Lion Tyler Paquette went to the penalty box, sending Notre Dame to the power-play. During the ensuing man advantage, Graduate student forward Jackson Pierson set up Trevor Janicke for a one-time bomb from the faceoff circle which beat Nittany Lion netminder Liam Souliere to give the Irish the game’s first blow. It was Janicke’s team-leading eighth goal of the season, and his fourth in the last five games. 

The Irish settled in nicely for the rest of the first period and held onto their 1-0 lead. Notre Dame killed off a Penn State power-play and were engaged on the forecheck. The Irish did a good job of turning Penn State zone-exit turnovers into extended possession time and a handful of scoring chances. After Penn State outshot Notre Dame 20-6 in Friday’s first period, the shots were only 15-12 Nittany Lions after one on Saturday. 

Penn State scored early and late in the middle period to leave the game tied 2-2 after forty minutes of play. The Nittany Lions initially tied the game less than 4 minutes into the frame, when junior forward Chase McLane got away from the backcheck of Niko Jovanovic to create a 2-on-1 with sophomore defenseman Simon Mack, who had jumped up the play. Mack took the pass and beat Notre Dame netminder Ryan Bischel to the blocker side. 

Penn State was unable to generate any momentum after the goal and never threatened to take the lead before being whistled for their fourth penalty of the contest in the following minutes. It took until the waning seconds of the power-play for the Irish to get set up. Eventually, Ryder Rolston had two good looks at the net from the top of the faceoff circle as the power-play expired. Both chances missed, but on the second Rolston shot, sophomore Justin Janicke was able to corral the rebound off the back boards and feed Chayse Primeau in front of the net for a tap-in goal. 

Now ahead 2-1, Notre Dame continued to do what made them successful in the first period. Despite giving up 20 shots in the second period, they frustrated Penn State on zone exits and entries, slowed the Nittany Lion team speed, and kept Penn State from generating any high-danger opportunities in the middle of the rink. Yet with 1:53 remaining in the period, Penn State struck with a dagger. Senior forward Connor McMenamin forced a rare Notre Dame turnover in the neutral zone that led to another two-on-one break for Penn State. Coming down the far flank, senior Connor MacEachern rifled a shot past Bischel to score his ninth of the season. 

In the third, Sarlo’s game-winning goal with 5:27 remaining was the only scoring play. The goal came after 15 minutes in which both teams traded chances but were rather cautious, each team waiting for the other to make a mistake. Notre Dame ended up making the game-defining one, as a poor line change set up another Penn State two-on-one prior to the game-winning goal. Though the Nittany Lions didn’t directly capitalize on the odd-man opportunity, Notre Dame was never able to get set up defensively before Sarlo snuck a wraparound between the legs of Bischel. The goal gave Penn State their first and only lead of the night. 

For Penn State, Saturday’s game was a landmark home win that snapped a perilous three-game winless streak. The Nittany Lions remain tied with Ohio State for second in the Big Ten and boost their record to 18-7-1. For Notre Dame, the loss is a tantalizing one. Presented with their first opportunity to sweep a series since October, the Irish saw it slip through their fingers late. Overall, it’s their seventh straight series split. Notre Dame dropped to 11-12-3 and hosts Wisconsin next weekend. 

Contact Ryan Murphy at [email protected] and Tyler Reidy at [email protected].

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