SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame’s hockey team, which has had difficulty getting over the hump offensively at times this season, ran into a couple of more walls Saturday night: Penn State goalie Peyton Jones and Senior Night.
Jones made 38 saves, 16 in the final period, as the No. 18 Nittany Lions skated to a 3-2 Big Ten victory over the 17th-ranked Fighting Irish, who lost on Senior Night for the third straight season.
“I don’t think we had that same level of intensity as we did last night,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said after Penn State managed to gain a weekend split of the final regular-season series for both teams following a dramatic 5-4 overtime victory Friday night by the Irish (18-13-3, 11-11-2-2 Big Ten).
Seniors Bobby Nardella, Dylan Malmquist, Jack Jenkins and Joe Wegwerth were honored along with their families before the contest witnessed by 4,950 at the Lefty Smith Rink in the Compton Family Ice Arena.
But except for a stretch at the end of the first period when they outshot Penn State 11-0 and a third period when the shots were 16-7 in their favor, the Irish just couldn’t solve Jones, the game’s No. 1 star, or neutralize the Nittany Lions’ potent attack.
“I thought we were sluggish, for whatever reason,” Jackson said.
Friday night, Notre Dame clinched second place and home ice through the semifinals of the Big Ten playoffs that begin next Friday at 7 with a best-of-three series against visiting Michigan State. “(Penn State) was playing for home ice. So their intensity was higher than ours, and it showed up in a lot of key areas of the ice.
“We have a reception upstairs tonight and I can’t remember the last time we won on Senior Night,” Jackson added.
It was the third straight loss on the night the Irish honor their seniors since a 1-0 victory over old Hockey East rival Boston University on Feb. 27, 2016.
Evan Barratt’s 16th goal of the season at 5:55 of the third period proved to be the game-winner for coach Gus Gadowsky’s Nittany Lions (19-13-2, 11-12-1-1 Big Ten) and was their second of two power-play goals. The other came off the stick of Alex Limoges (his 17th) in the second period after Nikita Pavlychev opened the scoring at 5:14 of the first period with his 14th goal. Notre Dame tied it on Andrew Peeke’s power-play goal at 15:26 of the opening period.
Cam Burke got Notre Dame’s other goal at 13:58 of the second period.
Junior goalie Cale Morris made 34 saves, 18 in the second period. Notre Dame ended up outshooting Penn State for the second straight night, this time by a 40-37 margin. Notre Dame also was just of 1-of-6 on its power-play opportunities, with Jones making eight saves on four first-period Penn State penalties.
Penn State, which had seven penalties totaling 25 minutes Friday night, got three minor in a span of 1:21 beginning at 13:51 of the first period and the Irish capitalized on a 5-on-3 advantage. Peeke blasted a 25-footer past Jones at 15:26 with Malmquist and Nardella picking up assists. The point for Nardella was his 100th.
Notre Dame had 1:14 of a 5-on-3 power play remaining after the goal, but Jones came up with several saves and the teams ended the first 20 minutes tied 1-1. The Irish, who were being outshot 11-6 before the penalties, outshot the Nittany Lions 17-11 in the period.
Penn State started the second period with a power play and Limoges slammed home his 17th from the doorstep after Morris made a save but couldn’t control the rebound at 1:49. Burke tied it at 13:58 when he jumped on a rebound of Pierce Crawford’s shot. But Jones then stopped a breakaway by Graham Slaggert and an unguarded Cam Morrison on the doorstep to keep it tied.
First Period—Scoring: 1. Penn State, Nikita Pavlychev 14 (Blake Gober, Sam Sternschein) 5:14 (even); 2. Notre Dame, Andrew Peeke 3 (Bobby Nardella, Dylan Malmquist) 15:26 (ppg). Penalties: Penn State 4-8, Notre Dame 1-2.
Second Period—Scoring: 3. Penn State, Alex Limoges 17 (Liam Folkes, Kevin Kerr) 1:49 (ppg); 4. Notre Dame, Cam Burke 4 (Pierce Crawford, Matt Steeves) 13:58 (even). Penalties (total): Penn State 2-4 (6-12), Notre Dame 3-6 (4-8).
Third Period—Scoring: 5. Penn State, Evan Barratt 16 (Kevin Kerr) 5:55 (ppg). Penalties (total): Penn State 1-2 (7-14), Notre Dame 1-2 (5-10).
Power-play opportunities—Penn State 2 of 4, Notre Dame 1 of 6.
Shots on goal—Penn State 11-19-7—37, Notre Dame 17-7-16—40.
Goalie saves—Penn State, Peyton Jones 16-6-16—38; Notre Dame, Cale Morris 10-18-6—34.
A: 4,950. Time: 2:30.