UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — When you don’t put the puck on net, you don’t score goals as Notre Dame painfully found out in the third period and overtime against Penn State in the opening game of their Big Ten Conference series Thursday night.
Going up against a red-hot Penn State hockey team averaging almost 40 shots on goal a game, Notre Dame knew it had to generate some offense. But three shots in the final 23:08 of regulation and overtime didn’t cut it as Penn State captain Alex Limoges’ backhander in the 3-on-3 overtime was the game-winner in a 2-1 Nittany Lions victory.
For two periods at the Pegula Ice Arena, Jeff Jackson’s Fighting Irish outshot Guy Gadowsky’s Nittany Lions 29-23 and held a 1-0 lead on Alex Steeves’ second-period goal. But the Irish went over 17 minutes between shots on goal in the third period that allowed the Nittany Lions, who started the season with five straight league losses, to win for the sixth time in their last seven games.
“We played them tough,” Jackson said. “They’re a hard team to play against and I thought we did a good job for the most part. It’s unfortunate the powers to be make a 3-on-3 loss overall because that’s a 5-on-5 tie in my opinion.”
Penn State (9-8-0, 7-8-0-2-0-0 Big Ten) pulled into a fourth-place tie with Notre Dame (7-9-1, 5-7-1-0-2-1) with 19 points, eight behind league-leader Minnesota, Michigan (23) and Wisconsin (22). It was Notre Dame’s first road loss after four victories against ranked teams (No. 3 Michigan in November; No. 1 Minnesota in January).
Notre Dame and Penn State conclude their series Friday night at 6 p.m.
It was Notre Dame’s third straight loss after its sweep of top-ranked Minnesota in Minneapolis Jan. 15-16 and it was a heartbreaker for senior goalie Dylan St. Cyr, who made 34 saves, 26 in the second and third periods and overtime. His Penn State counterpart, Oskar Autio, a junior from Finland, turned away 31 – and just three in the third and overtime periods. Penn State outshot Notre Dame 36-32, 13-3 in the final two periods.
“It’s the second time we’ve lost a 3-on-3,” continued Jackson, reflecting back to a 4-3 overtime loss to Michigan State in late December at the Compton Family ice Arena. “Their best player (Limoges) scored the game-winner. I don’t know if Dylan saw the first one; the second one was a great shot.”
Steeves’ eighth goal of the season, with assists from captain Nate Clurman and South Bend’s Graham Slaggert, gave the Irish a 1-0 lead at 12:01 of the second period. The Nittany Lions tied it at 6:10 of the third period on defenseman Clayton Phillips’ goal through a maze of players. Phillips and Tim Doherty then got assists on Limoges’ game-winner.
The Irish outshot the Nittany Lions 16-8 in the scoreless first period. Even more encouraging, the Irish tested Autio nine times in the final 6:09 when the Nittany Lions did not get a shot at St. Cyr, making his fourth straight start, during the same time span.
St. Cyr made three saves in 45 seconds against Xander Lamppa, Mason Snell and Connor MacEachern before the Irish onslaught began when Autio turned away shots by Nate Clurman, Graham Slaggert and Alex Steeves.
Notre Dame’s offensive surge then was aided by a cross-checking penalty against Penn State defenseman Evan Bell at 15:40. Autio stopped Max Ellis, Landon Slaggert and Steeves during the power play, and he finished the period by stopping Jake Pivonka’s shot six seconds before the period ended.
The Nittany Lions had an 8-2 advantage in shots during the first 6:45 of the second period before the Irish mounted a fourth-line attack against Autio. Freshman right wing Ryder Rolston’s shot was turned away before Autio made back-to-back saves on sophomore left wing Solag Bakich at 7:27.
That began a 7-1 shot surge by the Irish who eventually solved the Penn State netminder when Steeves backhanded a pass from Clurman over Autio at 12:01 and into the net. St. Cyr kept the Nittany Lions scoreless over the final 7:59 with six saves and the Irish entered the third period with a 1-0 lead.
The Irish began the third period with shots on goal by Ellis and Graham in the first 1:30 and then killing off a hooking penalty on Bakich, not allowing Penn State’s 10th-ranked power play to get a shot on goal. But St. Cyr made saves on Clayton Phillips and Alex Limoges after the penalty expired and the Nittany Lions kept up the pressure.
Penn State eventually tied the game at 6:10 when defenseman Phillips’ shot beat St. Cyr. The Lions then followed the goal with two more shots that St. Cyr managed to turn aside, leaving the hosts with a 7-2 edge in shots midway through the period. The media timeout at 10:09 didn’t stop the Lions’ onslaught as St. Cyr had to turn aside shots by Limoges and Christian Sarlo after play resumed. That left the Lions with a 10-2 edge in shots in the period and a 33-31 edge in the game with eight minutes to go in regulation.
Notre Dame’s shot-on-goal drought reached 17 minutes and two seconds before Autio turned aside a shot by Clurman at 18:32. But that would be the last shot the Irish would get in the game.
PENN STATE 2, NOTRE DAME 1 (OT)
At Pegula Ice Arena, University Park, Pa.
Notre Dame 0 1 0 0—1
Penn State 0 0 1 1—2
First Period—Scoring: None. Penalties: Notre Dame 0-0, Penn State 1-2.
Second Period—Scoring: 1. Notre Dame, Alex Steeves 8 (Nate Clurman, Graham Slaggert) EV 12:01. Penalties (total): Notre Dame 0-0 (0-0), Penn State 0-0 (1-2).
Third Period—Scoring: 2. Penn State, Clayton Phillips 3 (Connor McMenamin, Connor MacEachern) EV 13:50. Penalties (total): Notre Dame 1-2 (1-2), Penn State 0-0 (1-2).
Overtime—Scoring: 3. Penn State, Alex Limoges 9 (Clayton Phillips, Tim Doherty) EV 3:08. Penalties (total): Notre Dame 0-0 (1-2), Penn State 0-0 (1-2).
Shots on goal—Notre Dame 32 (16-13-3-0), Penn State 36 (8-15-11-2). Goalie saves—Notre Dame, Dylan St. Cyr 34 (8-15-10-1), Penn State, Oskar Autio 31 (16-12-3-0). Power-play opportunities—Notre Dame 0 of 1, Penn State 0 of 1. Faceoffs won—Notre Dame 31 (7-11-12-1), Penn State 25 (5-13-6-1). Blocked shots—Notre Dame 15 (1-7-7-0), Penn State 11 (3-3-5-0). Referees—Sean Fernandez and Tommy George. Linesmen—Colin Kronforst and Zach Roberts. Records—Notre Dame 7-9-1 (5-7-1-0-2-1 for 19 points Big Ten), Penn State 9-8-0 (7-8-0-2-0-0 for 19 points Big Ten).