Penn State Hockey: Nittany Lions Beat Notre Dame 3-2, Will Host Wisconsin In First Round Of Big Ten Tournament
If Friday night's loss was the straightforward summation of Penn State hockey's season, then Saturday night's 3-2 win over Notre Dame and the subsequent jump up the PairWise rankings was the obligatory reminder that the Nittany Lions' season is over when they say it's over.
Backstopped by two power play goals and 34 saves by Peyton Jones, the Nittany Lions got the game-winning tally from Evan Barratt nearly six minutes into the final frame and hung on to pick up a crucial and potentially season-saving win.
Nikita Pavlychev opened the night with a goal just 5:14 into regulation but the Irish answered nearly 10 minutes later thanks to a 5-on-3 tally to tie the game heading into the first intermission.
Alex Limoges pushed the Nittany Lions ahead in the second period just 1:49 into the frame but Cam Burke responded yet again to tie the game and send both teams into a crucial third period deadlocked at 2-2. The Nittany Lions held a 18-6 shots advantage in the middle 20 minutes but Notre Dame goalie Cale Morris continued his career-long streak of stellar play to keep the damage to just one Penn State goal.
For the third straight period Penn State struck first and early and Barratt's power play marker put the Nittany Lions ahead for good despite the Irish out-shooting Penn State 16-6 in the period.
The win sets up a Friday, Saturday and potentially Sunday date with Wisconsin in the best-of-three Big Ten quarterfinals. Penn State has one victory, two losses and a tie in the four regular season meeting against the Badgers but is technically 2-0 in the Big Ten Tournament at Pegula Ice Arena with a first-round sweep against Minnesota last season.
The Nittany Lions currently sit at No.16 in the PairWise rankings, good enough to make the tournament if it started today. With conference tournaments heading into full swing this upcoming weekend, it stands to reason that ranking will fluctuate both in the good and bad directions for coach Guy Gadowsky and his team over the next seven to ten days.
So the roadmap is simple, keep winning.
And Penn State hockey, for all of its flaws in 2019, has always found a way to do just that in the 11th hour.