Penn State Falls to Notre Dame in Front of a Record Crowd
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – A record 6,475 people were in attendance on Saturday night to watch the No. 8 Penn State Nittany Lions face off against Notre Dame in the White Rush game.
The Nittany Lions suffered a crushing tie, and seven-round shootout loss to the Fighting Irish on Friday night. On Saturday, the Nittany Lions weren’t able to deliver once again, falling to Notre Dame 4-2.
With the season and the Big Ten title race approaching a conclusion, teams in the race can’t afford many losses or blunders. Both Penn State and Notre Dame came into this series aiming to gain some serious ground in the Big Ten and national rankings. It was Notre Dame who took advantage on both occasions.
On Saturday, Notre Dame came out hot. It was all the Fighting Irish for the first period and a half. At the end of the first period, Notre Dame had 13 shots compared to Penn State’s eight, and two of them found the back of the net.
Senior forward and team captain Brandon Biro returned to action in this game for Penn State, which one would expect would provide an additional spark for the Nittany Lions. However, Biro was outskated by Notre Dame’s Cam Morrison on a breakaway that resulted in a 1-0 Fighting Irish lead early on and he didn’t have much of an impact on the rest of the game.
Notre Dame led the Nittany Lions 2-0 at the end of the first period, with the second goal coming from Cal Burke.
Penn State found more success in the second period. They were passing the puck proficiently, getting good looks on the net and began to claw their way back into the game. A goal from Alex Limoges reduced the Nittany Lions’ deficit to 2-1. Then, in the third period, off the rebound of a Paul DeNaples miss, senior forward Nikita Pavlychev found the back of the net knotting the game at two and igniting the atmosphere at Pegula Ice Arena.
However, that would be all the ammunition that the Nittany Lions had, and all that the fans would have left to cheer for as the offense halted, and it was all Notre Dame the rest of the way. Sophomore forward Graham Slaggert scored the go-ahead goal after another defensive lapse from Penn State, and Senior defenseman Tory Dello tallied an empty net goal to seal the victory for the Fighting Irish.
Penn State was only able to manufacture 25 shots on goal, compared to Friday night when that number was nearly doubled (48).
After the game, coach Guy Gadowsky acknowledged that his team’s performance was extremely disappointing.
“This one hurts for a couple reasons: one because it was such an amazing crowd. It looked so good, and [the fans] were so into it, and we just weren’t mentally prepared at the start. We were mentally prepared for a great game; we weren’t mentally prepared to compete,” Gadowsky said. “It just hurt so much because it was such a great crowd, and it was so great to look at, and it really hurts to waste that performance by our support.”
Gadowsky was certain of one thing, however, and that was the Nittany Lions aren’t giving a complete team effort.
“Our game is difficult to play. It is very difficult; a lot of people dummy it down a little bit but don’t understand it. It’s difficult to play, and I think that on any given night we have 80% that are doing it and the other 20% are hoping that the other 80% are going to make up for them. It’s not enough,” Gadowsky said.
Notre Dame was the team that was able to capitalize on its opportunities. The Fighting Irish took advantage of Penn State’s aggressive style of play.
“I think what they exploited is us individually not being ready for it. I don’t think it’s a systematic ‘oh we didn’t do this against them’, it was individual, mental breakdowns – not positioning. If we’re doing what we’re supposed to do those things don’t happen,” Gadowsky said.
DeNaples says that effort, and execution was one of the leading reasons for the team’s underwhelming performance.
“[We can’t give up] five-man rushes. We’re trying to play very aggressive, that’s our style of play. We play high risk, high reward hockey. We’ve got to get better at execution and plays that we do make. It’s got to be 100%, not 50-50,” DeNaples said.
The last three series have been rough for Penn State. After everything, however, the Nittany Lions still sit atop the Big Ten rankings, tied for first with six games left to play.
Gadowsky and Penn State will look to use this game and this series as a learning curve and attempt to turn things around as they travel to Columbus for a two-game series with the Ohio State Buckeyes coming up next weekend.
Zach Donaldson is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.