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Penn State Hockey: Nittany Lions Falter As No. 2 Notre Dame Comes Back To Win 5-3

by on February 02, 2018 9:45 PM

Penn State hockey's 5-3 loss to No. 2 Notre Dame on Friday night was in many ways a reminder of how far the program has come and how far it has left to go.

In the first period the Nittany Lions could very well have beaten anyone. Penn State skated the ice fearlessly, shelling Notre Dame goalie Cale Morris with 21 shots. With 7:31 gone by Alec Marsh ripped a shot off the draw and finally beat Morris high. Ten minutes later it was Chase Berger doing nearly the exact same thing.

Twenty minutes down and a 2-0 lead over the nation's second ranked team.

But all 6,229 fans that packed Pegula Ice Arena had seen this story before. Penn State's growing history is full of early leads and electric first periods that put opponents on the ropes and the crowd on its feet.

It's that second period though, the true meat of the game, that has haunted the Nittany Lions.

And it happened again on Friday, first just four minutes into the second period and then just over two minutes following that. The Irish flexing their muscle instead of their luck, a quick and effective reminder that Notre Dame did not find itself ranked No.1 just a week ago by mistake. If not for Berger's second of the night midway through the second period, the Irish may have run away with it then and there.

By the end of the period it was 3-3, a goal by Bo Brauer bringing the game to a deadlock just minutes before the intermission. For all those fans that had seen that first period before, they had seen the second as well. It has become something of a weakness for a Nittany Lion team teetering on the edge of making the postseason and missing it. 

In the third Penn State poured on the offense, but Morris was not to be beaten. If anything Friday was a reminder of the little things, as Notre Dame pressed the Nittany Lions turned the puck over in their own zone and eventually it came back to haunt them. 4:21 into the period Brauer gave Notre Dame the lead and eight minutes later Dawson Cook put the Irish ahead by two, the puck squeaking through Peyton Jones on a night where he wasn't his sharpest but far from the only reason for the loss.

As a result Penn State skates into Saturday afternoon's contest with a tall order ahead. The Nittany Lions will have to find a way to beat a goalie that has looked unbeatable, and a defense that makes so few errors. There was a win to be had on Friday night, but the little things cost Penn State and in turn its postseason chances only become smaller.

So if a second round loss to Denver was a reminder of how skilled the best teams in the nation can be, Friday night may have been a similar lesson, that it takes sixty, not twenty minutes to win a game.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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