Earlier this week, Guy Gadowsky discussed how he wanted to install a finisher’s mindset into his team. Penn State had come away winless against Wisconsin despite holding a lead late in both games.
The Nittany Lions 5-3 loss to Notre Dame Friday night became a virtual carbon copy of their series with the Badgers. Gadowsky’s squad carried a 2-0 lead into the first intermission and took a 3-2 lead midway through the game, but the Fighting Irish rallied back with three straight goals to secure the win.
The Nittany Lions have been searching for answers for their recent struggles holding leads. Gadowsky may have a simple answer to the dilemma.
“I think the obvious answer is, we’re not mentally tough enough to have a very short memory and get back focused on what we do,” he said following the game.
His players seem to agree. While Chase Berger felt the team kept pace with the Irish for much of the contest, both he and Andrew Sturtz felt they let it get away from them late in the game.
“The game’s 60 minutes, and we’ve got to figure out how to play the full 60,” Sturtz said.
How It Happened
After weeks of questions about Penn State’s struggles on faceoffs and Guy Gadowsky’s open frustration with the task, both of the Nittany Lions’ goals came as a result of faceoff sucess.
Seven and a half minutes into the game, a loose puck found its way to Alec Marsh. The junior forward, who had just one goal heading into today’s game, turned around and wired a wrist shot over Cale Morris’s glove.
A little less than ten minutes later, Chase Berger became the beneficiary of another faceoff win by Andrew Sturtz. The junior gathered the puck off the draw and beat Morris over the glove.
Exactly four minutes into the second period, the Fighting Irish cut the Lions’ lead in half. After some extended pressure, Andrew Oglevie was left all alone down low and hammered in a pass from Dennis Gilbert to put the Irish on the board.
Just a few minutes later, the Irish capitalized on the game’s first man advantage to tie the game at two. With Kevin Kerr in the box for high sticking, Andrew Peeke sent a point shot on goal that snuck through the legs of Peyton Jones.
The Lions responded quickly, however, as Chase Berger deflected a point shot by Trevor Hamilton over the glove of Morris.
As the period was winding down, the Irish knotted the game at three after an extraordinary passing play. After Matt Hellickson sent a stretch pass down the ice, Joe Wegworth broke in on a two-on-one with Bo Brauer. A fake shot by Wegworth froze Jones and gave Brauer an open net to shoot at after Wegworth sent a pass across the ice to the senior forward.
Early in the third period, Brauer’s second goal of the game gave the Irish its first lead of the night. After a string of chances that were kept out by Jones, Brauer roofed a centering pass by Bobby Nardella over the glove of Jones.
Shortly after the goal, the Lions pressed the attack looking to re-establish momentum. Gadowsky’s squad peppered Morris with shots, many from close range, but couldn’t beat the Hobey Baker nominee.
Midway through the period, Dawson Cook killed much of the momentum Penn State had established. On an odd-man rush, Cook fired a shot that found a hole in Jones and trickled into the net to give the Irish a two-goal advantage.
The Nittany Lions gave a final push with Peyton Jones on the bench for an extra attacker with two and a half minutes to play. While the Lions managed several chances, Morris and some puck luck kept the Irish ahead by two as the clock would down.
Along with the loss, the Lions may have also lost their most talented player. During their last-ditch effort to tie the game, Denis Smirnov charged to the front of the net and was met with a stiff elbow from Justin Wade that caught Smirnov on the chin.
Smirnov missed a month earlier in the season due to an illness, and while Gadowsky said the team won’t find out the extent of the injury until tomorrow, Smirnov remained on all fours before being helped off the ice.