Series Grades: Men’s Hockey vs. Notre Dame
Eighth-ranked Penn State men’s hockey will walk into the holiday break period losers of three of their last five games, after splitting with the No. 15 Notre Dame Fighting Irish this weekend at Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend, Indiana.
The Nittany Lions won 4-2 Friday night, before falling 3-0 on Saturday.
With the weekend split, Penn State ends its six-game road trip with a record of 3-3-0. It feels like a missed opportunity for the Nittany Lions to bury a few Big Ten adversaries in the conference standings, especially a Notre Dame side who were losers of six straight before Saturday night’s victory.
Let’s dive into deeper detail and grade Penn State’s performance this past weekend.
You wouldn’t expect the Penn State offense to be the team’s main culprit, especially when it’s averaging a Big Ten-leading 4.05 goals per game. However, the Penn State offense has fallen off the past few series to say the least.
The Nittany Lions had ballooned a comfortable lead atop the NCAA charts for the nation’s top offense but have since fallen to third nationally after back-to-back weekends where they have struggled to find the back of the net for an entire 60 minutes.
Although the Big Ten seems to have some of the best goaltending throughout college hockey this season, there just appears to be something off with the lack of clear-cut chances the Penn State attack has been able to produce.
Penn State was shut out for the third time this season on Saturday, after not being shut out a single time last season. Despite Notre Dame goaltender Cale Morris seeming to finally come back into form and make a few impressive stops, it’s still difficult to excuse a team with Penn State’s array of offensive talent from being shut out.
Although, some credit must be given to the Nittany Lions for Friday’s offensive output, especially in crunch time during the third period, where Penn State scored three goals to come back and seal the victory.
Penn State’s defensive resurgence this season must be the most impressive aspect of the team so far this season. The Nittany Lions sit just outside the top 20 in scoring defense nationally, only giving up an average of 2.42 goals per game.
On Friday, the defense did well to keep Notre Dame in check after the Irish took an early third period lead. They also did not concede a single goal with an extra Notre Dame skater on the ice all weekend, whether it be a power play opportunity or when Notre Dame pulled its goalie late on Friday.
The defense may have run out of gas in the second period of Saturday’s game, but it’s hard to give them too much blame given the offense’s poor performance.
The defense also did a good job providing support to the attack, as defensemen Paul DeNaples tallied a goal on Friday and also generated a couple of scoring chances Saturday, one which found the back of the net, but was disallowed due to interference in the crease.
Peyton Jones had another solid outing in goal this past weekend. The senior was not perfect but made plenty of impressive stops to keep Penn State in each contest when the offense went quiet. Jones might have let in five even strength goals throughout the weekend, but all of them came from high quality chances and there’s very little he could have done better to stop them.
Despite Notre Dame’s struggling run of form coming into the series, Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky still managed to pick up a split in an arena that has caused the Nittany Lions a lot of problems in the past three seasons. Gadowsky will eventually need to sort out the offensive inconsistencies, as that unit is still the backbone of the team. However, for now he was able to help extend Penn State’s lead in the Big Ten standings to five points heading into the holiday break.
Andre Magaro is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.