Penn State Hockey: Nittany Lions Fall 3-2 In Final Seconds To Notre Dame In Big Ten Semifinals
When you consider sports in the context of which can experience the most instantaneous conclusion, few compare to hockey.
Basketball, most games don't come down to the final shot. And even when they do, the shot has a lifespan of its own as it travels through the air, and often times its destination can be approximated before it hits the net.
Football, long touchdown runs take time, game winning field goals are a painful span of seconds. Everything unfolds in a way that you can witness it happening as it does.
But hockey, any shot could go into the net. Any flick of the wrist could turn something seemingly harmless into the end of a game. The puck travels so fast that for a short time TV broadcasts graced it with a yellow highlight as it flew across the screen. It's a small disk of rubber waiting to rip the hearts out of everyone watching. And doing it fast enough that you only realize it once it happened.
If Penn State's 3-2 loss to Notre Dame in the Big Ten Semifinals was anything it was a lesson in just that. Hockey is efficient, there is no prolonged suffering, you blink and it's over . On Saturday, a Notre Dame goal with 30.9 seconds to play was that moment. One that seemed to catch Peyton Jones by surprise, perhaps thinking his teammates has corralled the puck before it was snapped past his left leg. Nevertheless, it found itself way behind Jones and not long after, the game was behind him as well.
In many ways the goal didn't fit the level of play that both teams provided much of the evening. 47 shots for the Irish, 45 for the Nittany Lions. Notre Dame would score first, a goal not any less of a surprise to Jones, then Nate Sucese would answer. The Irish would go ahead again and Brandon Biro would punch right back. Cale Morris would make a save, Jones would find the puck in equally impressive fashion.
It was a game that seemed destined for overtime, and maybe should have gotten there. But Penn State blinked, and the puck travels far too fast for anyone to get away with it.
If there is any silver lining for Penn State in defeat it is that the Nittany Lions are almost certainly still headed to the postseason. An Allentown regional full of Penn State fans is hardly a poor consolation prize for a team in its sixth year of being.
But equally true, Penn State went toe to toe against one of the best in the nation, and will feel on some level it beat itself in a moment where it could ill afford to do so. The Nittany Lions may not have been the better team, but they were certainly as good as the Irish. And in a world where games can be decided by an instant, even for all of the success Penn State will enjoy in the form of the 2017-18 season, the Nittany Lions will undoubtedly take a few days to flush the "what if" from their system.
The NCAA Tournament field will be announced a week from Sunday.