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Penn State Falls To Notre Dame 4-2

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The Fighting Irish took five out of six Big Ten points from the Nittany Lions.

Heather Weikel | Black Shoe Diaries

Goals By Period

Team 1st 2nd 3rd OT Final
Team 1st 2nd 3rd OT Final
Notre Dame 2 0 2 x 4
Penn State 0 1 1 x 2

With the Big Ten regular season title race coming down to the wire, Penn State can hardly afford any slip ups for the remainder of the season, especially not in their home rink.

The Nittany Lions have failed to take advantage of what few home games they’ve had in the second half of their schedule.

For the second straight home weekend, the Nittany Lions managed just one point in the Big Ten standings following a 4-2 loss to Notre Dame. Once again, coach Guy Gadowsky pointed to a lack of mental preparedness for the Nittany Lions relatively flat performance.

“We just weren’t mentally prepared at the start. We were mentally prepared for a great game. We weren’t mentally prepared to compete,” Gadowsky said. “What I mean is, the team that we faced had other plans and we didn’t match their mental toughness at the start.”

Mental toughness should be something Penn State has become very familiar with. For the past three seasons, the Nittany Lions have played their best hockey in their most desperate times — late in the season and chasing an NCAA Tournament berth.

Their fairly comfortable position inside this year’s tournament bubble may be the root cause of the Nittany Lions subpar compete level. Still, if any team should know you can’t take a night off at this point in the season, it’s the team hasn’t had the option of taking a night off at this point in the season for three years.

It isn’t so much that the Nittany Lions are playing more for the individual than the collective. From Gadowsky’s point of view behind the bench, it’s more that the team isn’t playing the way Gadowsky wants it to play.

“Our game is difficult to play. It is very difficult. A lot of people, I think, dumb it down a little bit, but don’t understand it,” he said. “I think, in any given night, we have about 80 percent that are doing that, and about 20 percent that are hoping the other 80 percent are going to make up for them.”

Eighty percent may be enough to get Penn State back to the NCAA Tournament. What it won’t do is give arguably the most talented roster Gadowsky has had a shot at the Frozen Four.

How It Happened

Midway through the first period, the Fighting Irish picked up a shorthanded goal to open the scoring. After a Nate Sucese pass misfired, Cam Morrison hopped on the loose puck and beat Peyton Jones between the legs on a breakaway.

A few minutes later, Cal Burke doubled the Fighting Irish lead. As the Notre Dame captain sped past Kris Myllari, he tucked a shot between the legs of Jones.

Midway through the second period, Penn State’s stagnant offense finally got the spark it needed. After Liam Folkes stole the puck behind the Notre Dame net, he found Evan Barratt, who swung a pass to Alex Limoges in the slot. Limoges’ one timer hit Cale Morris’ glove and went under the crossbar.

Early in the third period, Nikita Pavlychev leveled the game at two with his second goal of the weekend. Fresh off the bench, Pavlychev raced to the rebound of Paul DeNaples’ point shot and squeezed the puck between Morris’ blocker and the post.

With exactly five minutes to go, the Fighting Irish regained the lead. Graham Slaggert got behind the Penn State defense and took a stretch pass from Spencer Stastney. Slaggert lifted a shot past Jones’ blocker on the breakaway.

Just as the clock hit the final minute of regulation, Tory Dello hit the empty net from 150 feet away.