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Penn State Hockey: Nittany Lions Pick Up Point In 3-3 Shootout Loss To Notre Dame

by on January 31, 2020 9:55 PM

For the second-straight home game the Nittany Lions hit the bar in overtime and came out on the wrong end of the extra point competition in a 3-3 tie against Notre Dame on Friday night. The Irish won the shootout for the second point in the standings, beating Penn State goalie Peyton Jones in the seventh round.

Penn State added a point to its Big Ten total now with 29 on the season.

The good news for the Nittany Lions, they played their best game of the calendar year when they needed it most, and while Friday's result might not have been what Penn State would have wanted, it was a performance to lean on in the season's final seven games.

Notre Dame would score first fairly early in regulation, but a snipe by Nikita Pavlychev tied the affair not long after and turned Penn State's somewhat inconsistent offensive attack over the past few weeks into a constant torrent of shots and pressure, nearly taking a 2-1 lead before the intermission.

Sometimes you just have to see the puck go in the net, Penn State getting outscored at home 11-4 over the past three games prior to the goal.

"I think it loosened us up a bit," coach Guy Gadowsky said after the game.

And Penn State looked the part of the "old" Nittany Lions, creating odd man rushes, fast to the puck in the corners, quick to move through the neutral zone. There was a confidence about their game and it took little time into the second period for Penn State to take the 2-1 lead. Where tentative play and inconsistent offense once was, the Nittany Lions replaced it with a potent attack that hit the post twice, and was held in check only by Notre Dame goalie Cale Morris, one of the best in the nation for the past several seasons.

"We will go as far as Cale does," Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said following the game.

And Notre Dame went far enough to tie things at 2-2 heading into the third period, both offenses firing off shots, both goalies standing tall.

It was Tyler Gratton that broke the tie early in the third period to give Penn State a 3-2 lead, another freshman adding his name to a growing list of young contributors this season. His redirection in front of goal sent Pegula Ice Arena into a frenzy, a crucial win seemingly on the books.

But there is no sport quite like hockey, where a bad bounce is the difference between winning and losing, a weird hop changing the outcome of a game despite otherwise solid play. Penn State has been on the wrong end and right end of these, and yet another broke against the Nittany Lions in the final two minutes of regulation, a corner battle resulting in the puck bouncing free in front of goal, a scramble pushing it just past Jones' leg.

Tied.

In overtime it was all Penn State, and all post as Nate Sucese nearly won it in the opening shifts.

Then three-on-three, neither team wilting.

And then a shootout, six and a half scoreless rounds of well intended but poorly executed attempts. Jones was finally beaten in the seventh, and the Irish took home the extra point.

Penn State will feel once again like it left points on the ice, and the Nittany Lions did, bad bounce or not. But they will head into Saturday with a certain confidence knowing that some of their swagger is back, their fast and shot-happy offense finally finding its skates again.

They will also head into Saturday with a solo lead in the Big Ten standings, a single point ahead of idle Michigan State. With Michigan beating Ohio State later in the evening, the Buckeyes can now only join the Nittany Lions with a win and a Penn State loss on Saturday.

The other side of that coin, teams will have a harder time catching up to Penn State if the Nittany Lions can get over that Cale Morris sized hump, and pick up three crucial points so late in the year.

(Penn State played without captain Brandon Biro again out with injury as well as forward Denis Smirnov and defenseman Clayton Philips)



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