Morris' first shutout of season gives Irish split with Penn State

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame found an old way to perhaps turn around its hockey season Saturday night — goalie Cale Morris and timely scoring.

The Irish broke a six-game losing streak as Morris made 37 saves and the Irish got goals from freshman Max Ellis and sophomores Alex Steeves and Graham Slaggert in a 3-0 Big Ten Conference victory over No. 7 Penn State before 4,306 at the Lefty Smith Rink in the Compton Family Ice Arena.

“Cale made some big saves, we did a good job blocking shots and some timely scoring, something we’ve been missing for the last month,” Jackson said. “This is the first time we’ve scored three goals in a while. With a team like Penn State, you can’t relax.”

Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky pulled goalie Peyton Jones late in the third period, but Morris and the Irish were up to the task as the Nittany Lions outshot the No. 15/14 Irish 13-1 in the third period.

It was Morris’ first shutout of the season which lowered his goals-against average to 2.85 and raised his saves percentage to .903 while improving his record to 6-6-2.

The goal for Ellis was his first in an Irish uniform. Defenseman Matt Hellickson had a pair of assists and Notre Dame’s skaters blocked 37 shots, 31 of them over the final two periods in sending the Nittany Lions back to State College, Pa., at 13-6 overall and 8-4-0-0 for 24 points in the Big Ten after their series split. Penn State scored three goals Friday night in the third period of a 4-2 victory.

Notre Dame, now 9-7-2 overall and 5-3-2-1 in the Big Ten for 18 points, takes a break for finals and Christmas before returning to campus to prepare for a home-and-home with Western Michigan of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Jan. 3 in South Bend and Jan. 5 in Kalamazoo.

The Irish, who twice had one-goal leads but lost them both in Friday’s 4-2 Nittany Lions victory, took a 1-0 lead to the locker room after the first 20 minutes and then never trailed.

Ellis, a freshman fourth-liner who missed the first 13 games with mononucleosis, scored his first career goal when he wristed a 15-footer from the slot past Jones at 7:35. The goal was set up by the tenecious work of freshman Jesse Lansdell, who stole the puck from Penn State defenseman Kris Myllari and was tripped but still managed to slide the puck to Ellis.

The Nittany Lions had a goal from the blueline by defenseman Paul DeNaples at 12:47 disallowed when his teammate Sam Sternschein was in the goal crease interfering with Morris.

The Irish, who outshot the Nittany Lions 42-40 Friday night, had a 16-14 edge in shots after Penn State started 4-0. Jones, who had 40 saves Friday, had 15 in the first period while Morris stopped all 14, including shots by Liam Folkes and Brandon Biro in the first 10 minutes and then one by Alex Stevens with four seconds remaining before the horn.

The teams exchanged power-play chances early in the second period, and Penn State actually threatened with Penn State’s Cole Hults off for interference with two shots that Morris turned away and two more shots that were blocked by Irish defenseman Nick Leivermann.

After the penalty expired, Notre Dame went up 2-0 when Matt Hellickson took a pass from blueline partner Tory Dello and wristed a cross-ice pass to Steeves, whose one-timer beat Jones at 9:05. It was Steeves’ second goal in as many nights and fourth of the season.

After Morris made saves on Sternschein and 6-foot-8 center Nikita Pavlychev, the second while falling backward into the goal crease, the Irish came down ice and made it 3-0 at 15:15. Hellickson’s shot from the mid-point was saved by Jones but the rebound came to Slaggert, who buried it. Mike O’Leary also got an assist.

The Nittany Lions outshot the Irish 10-6 in the second and Morris made 10 saves for a two-period total of 24, five more than Jones.

Penn State got the first seven shots of the third period and Morris saved all of them before Cal Burke’s wrister at 6:30 was turned away by Jones.

Down three goals, Gadowsky pulled Jones with 5:58 left in the third period but Morris made a save on Connor McMenamin and then made six saves to keep the Nittany Lions scoreless over the next five minutes before O’Leary hit the post with a deflection with 1:13 to go.

NOTRE DAME 3, PENN STATE 0

At Lefty Smith Rink, South Bend

Penn State 0 0 0—0

Notre Dame 1 2 0—3

First Period—Scoring: 1. Notre Dame, Max Ellis 1 (Jesse Lansdell) EV 7:35. Penalties: Penn State 0-0; Notre Dame 1-2.

Second Period—Scoring: 2. Notre Dame, Alex Steeves 4 (Matt Hellickson, Tory Dello) EV 9:05; 3. Notre Dame, Graham Slaggert 2 (Matt Hellickson, Mike O’Leary) EV 15:15. Penalties (total): Penn State 1-2 (1-2); Notre Dame 2-4 (3-6).

Third Period—Scoring: None. Penalties (total): Penn State 1-2 (2-4); Notre Dame 1-2 (4-8).

Power-play opportunities—Penn State 0 of 3; Notre Dame 0 of 2.

Faceoffs won—Penn State 31 (11-14-6); Notre Dame 29 (10-11-8).

Blocked shots—Penn State 14 (6-4-4); Notre Dame 37 (6-15-16).

Shots on goal—Penn State 37 (14-10-13); Notre Dame 23 (16-6-1).

Goalie saves—Penn State, Peyton Jones 20 (15-4-1); Notre Dame, Cale Morris 37 (14-10-13).

Records—Penn State 13-5-0 (8-3-0-0 Big Ten, 24 points); Notre Dame 8-7-2 (4-3-2-1 Big Ten, 15 points).

A—4,306 (5,022)

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