Notre Dame shakes home blues with three-goal outburst in 5-2 victory

Tribune Staff Report
ND Insider

SOUTH BEND — With Notre Dame playing host to Big Ten postseason hockey tournament March 14-16, the Fighting Irish needed to get used to winning again at the Lefty Smith Rink in the Compton Family Ice Arena.

Coach Jeff Jackson’s Fighting Irish, who are 9-2-1 on the road this season wearing their blue road uniforms, wore their blue uniforms Friday and scored three third-period goals to beat Penn State, 5-2, ending a five-game home losing streak that began with Arizona State’s 5-3 non-conference victory on Jan. 10. The Irish are now 3-0-1 in their last four games.

Notre Dame got third-period goals from sophomore right wing Max Ellis (his fourth of the season at 3:24), freshman defensemen Zach Plucinski (the first of his career at 7:29) and junior defenseman and captain Nate Clurman (his fourth of the year at 15:00) to break a 2-2 tie. Senior goaltender Dylan St. Cyr allowed just two goals and made 38 saves in his 13th start in the team’s last 14 games.

Freshman left wing Landon Slaggert and senior forward Matt Steeves scored goals in the first and second period, respectively, to offset the first two goals of the season by Penn State defenseman Mason Snell. Irish forwards Grant Silianoff and Jesse Lansdell each had two assists for the Irish.

The victory improved Notre Dame’s home-ice record to 4-10-1 as the Irish improved to 13-12-2 overall and 11-10-2 in the Big Ten heading into the regular-season finale for both teams at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

Coach Guy Gadowsky’s Nittany Lions, who were playing for the first time since their 3-2 loss to the Irish in University Park, Pennsylvania, on Jan. 29 preceded a COVID-19 shut down of the program for eight games, dropped to 9-10 overall and 7-10 in the league.

Because not all of the Big Ten teams will play the same number of games in this season being played during the pandemic, the seeding for the single-elimination Big Ten Tournament will be determined by teams’ winning percentages in league contests.

Wisconsin moved ahead of Minnesota into first place Friday night after its 4-0 victory at Michigan State was coupled with Michigan’s 5-2 road victory over the Golden Gophers. The team with the best winning percentage earns the top seed into the tournament and a first-round bye for games March 14.

Regardless how Notre Dame and Penn State fare Saturday, they will finish fourth and fifth in the league seedings and thus play each other in a first-round game March 14 at the Lefty Smith Rink.

The Nittany Lions opened the scoring at 2:41 when Snell’s wrist shot from the point got past a screened St. Cyr, who entered the game coming off a pair of 2-0 shutouts last weekend at Michigan State.

But Slaggert tied it at 4:10 with his eighth goal of the season when he converted a pass from Alex Steeves from just outside the goal crease to beat Penn State netminder Oskar Autio, who made 29 saves.

St. Cyr then denied Penn State’s Paul DeNaples on the doorstep with two seconds left in the period for his 14th save of the period to keep it a 1-1 tie after the first period, and he stopped a breakaway attempt by Penn State’s Christian Sarlo early in the second period.

Snell put Penn State up 2-1 at 10:18 that deflected off an Irish defenseman, but Matt Steeves answered that goal 1:33 later to tie the game and eventually send the teams to the locker room tied 2-2 after two periods.

Ellis gave the Irish their first lead of the game in the third period when he one-timed a pass from Jesse Lansdell from the slot past Autio at 3:24. Plucinski, playing for the first time after missing eight games, crashed the net and scored on a pass from Trevor Janicke to make it 4-2 at 7:29. Later in the period, Lansdell’s shot from the point bounced off Jake Pivonka and kicked off Clurman before going into the net at 15:00.

St. Cyr, meanwhile, made another 14 saves to finish with 38 and improved to 10-8-1 this season. During the 14 games he has played since a 2-1 victory at then top-ranked Minnesota Jan. 16, the Irish goalie has a 2.07 goals-against average and a .936 saves percentage while going 7-5-1.

NOTRE DAME 5, PENN STATE 2

At Lefty Smith Rink/Compton Family Ice Arena, South Bend

Penn State 1 1 0—2

Notre Dame 1 1 3—5

First Period—Scoring: 1. Penn State, Mason Snell 1 (Connor McMenamin, Kevin Wall) EV 2:41. 2. Notre Dame, Landon Slaggert 8 (Alex Steeves) 4:10. Penalties: Penn State 0-0, Notre Dame 0-0.

Second Period—Scoring: 3. Penn State, Mason Snell 2 (Tim Doherty) EV 10:18, 4. Notre Dame, Matt Steeves 2 (Pierce Crawford, Grant Silianoff) EV 11:51. Penalties (total): Penn State 1-2 (1-2), Notre Dame 1-2 (1-2).

Third Period—Scoring: 5. Notre Dame, Max Ellis 4 (Jesse Lansdell, Matt Hellickson) EV 3:24. 6. Notre Dame, Zach Plucinski 1 (Trevor Janicke, Grant Silianoff) EV 7:29. 7. Notre Dame, Nate Clurman 4 (Jake Pivonka, Jesse Lansdell) EV 15:00. Penalties (total): Penn State 0-0 (1-2), Notre Dame 1-2 (2-4).

Shots on goal—Penn State 40 (15-11-14), Notre Dame 34 (7-11-16). Goalie saves—Penn State, Oskar Autio 29 (6-10-13). Notre Dame, Dylan St. Cyr 38 (14-10-14). Power-play opportunities—Penn State 0 of 2, Notre Dame 0 of 1. Faceoffs won—Penn State 35 (9-14-12), Notre Dame 30 (12-12-6). Blocked shots—Penn State 17 (4-7-6), Notre Dame 16 (8-4-4). Referees—David Marcotte and Sean Fernandez. Linesmen—Nick Huff and Bill Hancock.

Records—Penn State 9-10-0 overall and 7-10-0 Big Ten (fifth), Notre Dame 13-12-2 overall and 11-10-2 Big Ten (fourth).

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