As Penn State has continued its ascension to becoming one of the top teams in college hockey, Guy Gadowsky has used certain tough losses and devastating moments as learning experiences that will help his team grow into a powerhouse.
By sheer happenstance, Gadowsky looked back not even 24 hours for a lesson on how to come from behind against a strong opponent.
During the Nittany Lions 2-2 tie against Notre Dame Saturday night, Gadowsky’s squad fell behind by two goals early in the contest. The No. 17 Lions remained composed and stuck to their typical gameplan that leans on an aggressive offense, rallying to tie the game early in the second period to earn the split decision against the No. 2 Fighting Irish.
The roles were reversed for the two teams from Friday night’s matchup, which saw the Lions jump out to a 2-0 lead after the first period before the Irish rallied to win the game 5-3. Jeff Jackson’s team stuck to what it does best, patiently awaiting the perfect shooting opportunity and smothering the opposing offense. The Lions adopted that mentality Saturday night.
“I thought they were extremely disciplined and really stuck to what they did extremely well,” Gadowsky said after the game. “I’d like to think that we were motivated by that. I don’t know if it was specifically to come back, but it was motivated to keep doing what we do.”
While the Lions wrapped up the weekend without a win, their performance could provide a spark for the remainder of the season that they can compete with the second best (arguably the best) team in the nation.
“It’s not a win, but I thought that it could be a big step to prove to ourselves what we can do,” Gadowsky said.
How It Happened
After the emotional let down of last night’s blown lead, the Nittany Lions got off to a rocky start Saturday afternoon. The Lions failed to convert on an early power play, having four shots blocked by Fighting Irish defenders and getting none through to Cale Morris.
A few minutes after the Irish killed the early penalty, Cal Burke opened the scoring for Jeff Jackson’s squad. After a long range wrist shot handcuffed Peyton Jones, the puck dropped to Burke’s stick. The sophomore forward quickly knocked the puck in as Jones desperately stretched his right leg out.
Not even two minutes later, Dylan Malmquist doubled the Irish lead, redirecting a point shot by Andrew Oglevie past Jones. The two goals in rapid succession had Gadowsky concerned, but he was ultimately pleased with how Jones, who did not allow a goal for the remainder of the game and finished with 32 saves, handled himself after allowing the goals.
“To be honest with you I was a little worried about him because it’s a game that we really wanted,” Gadowsky said. “I’m sure he wanted at least the first one back. I really liked his response. He’s been really impressive with his mental strength since he got here and I thought it showed tonight.”
The Lions began to get back on track as the period wound down, ultimately cutting the Irish lead in half with just over two minutes remaining. After Morris had trouble controlling James Gobetz’s shot from the point, Andrew Sturtz jumped on the rebound and slung a shot into the back of the net.
The goal gave the Lions virtually all the momentum for the remainder of the period. Shortly after Sturtz’s tally, Trevor Hamilton beat Morris on the far side, but his shot rang off the post.
The Lions carried their momentum into the second period. Early in the middle frame, Liam Folkes tied the game at two, sneaking a shot between Morris’s blocker and the post.
The Lions continued their relentless attack throughout the second period, outshooting the Irish 20-8 in the middle frame.
Once the third period rolled around, however, the Lions appeared to slow their attack. Despite pumping 13 more shots at Morris, the Irish maintained longer periods of puck possession and earned the higher quality scoring chances.
The Lions upped the tempo during overtime, however, and the spark nearly created a classic moment for one of the Lions’ most decorated players. Sitting at 99 career points after his earlier goal, Sturtz was hauled down on a breakaway in the extra frame, affording him the chance to be the hero on a penalty shot.
After making a quick move, Sturtz tried to lift a shot over the pad of Morris, but the Irish goaltender flashed the left leg quickly and turned the attempt aside.
After Jordan Gross scored in the third round of the shootout, Sturtz had another one-on-one chance against Morris to extend the evening. After Sturtz crossed the blue line, he wound up on a slapshot, looking to fool Morris into committing to the shot. Morris stared the puck down the entire way, eventually getting a piece of Sturtz’s shot to send it over the net and give the Irish the extra point in the conference standings.