After an historic season that was fun for all Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey fans, the time finally came on Saturday night for the Irish to host the semifinal of the Big Ten Tournament. Coming into the tournament, the Irish were ranking No. 2 in the PairWise rankings, and finished the regular season with a 24-9-2 record (17-6-1-1 in the B1G). Their opponents would be the No. 12 Penn State Nittany Lions, the defending Big Ten Tournament champions. By winning last year’s conference tournament, Penn State got into the NCAA Tournament for the first time as a Division 1 school. This year, the Irish finished the regular season 3-0-1 against the Nittany Lions.
In a first period where both offenses seemed to play pretty evenly, a Jordan Gross shot from the blue line through traffic got the Irish on the board first. Shortly after the opening goal, the Irish went on the power play thanks to a tripping call, but it was killed off by Penn State. A couple minutes later, Penn State went on a power play of their own when Dawson Cook was called for cross-checking. On the man advantage, Nate Sucese found the back of the net to even the score early on.
The chippy play on both sides continued, as Penn State’s Brett Murray was called for tripping at 12:04. On the ensuing power play, Andrew Peeke found the back of the net to give the Irish a 2-1 lead with 5:57 to go in the first period. There was a lengthy video review on Peeke’s goal to see if Notre Dame was offside, but the replay seemed too close to call and the goal stood.
The second period is underway!— Notre Dame Hockey (@NDHockey) March 10, 2018
Here's a look at Peeke's fifth of the season (2nd PPG) pic.twitter.com/x7lrJipCDU
Penn State would answer quickly, when Brandon Biro collected his own rebound to tie the game yet again, at 15:43 into the opening period. After Biro’s goal, both teams narrowly missed taking the lead. Andrew Oglevie had a great opportunity to put the Irish back on top, but couldn’t get the puck past Peyton Jones. Penn State defenseman James Gobetz was about fifteen feet from the goal by himself, but Cale Morris made a chest save.
A similar play happened later in the period with 6:58 to go in the second. Cal Burke was all alone and looking like he was about to give the Irish the lead, but Jones made a chest save of his own. Shortly after Penn State’s Trevor Hamilton was reviewed for kneeing Mike O’Leary, and there was no call, Justin Wade was called for interference at 13:49. The Nittany Lions didn’t capitalize, and the game remained tied going into the third period despite plenty of offense from both teams.
Notre Dame started to surge during the first half of the third period, but Jones continued his great play and refused to let the Irish take the lead. It seemed every Irish forward that saw the ice up to that point in the period had a shot on goal. When it looked like Penn State was finally creating some offense with a two on one, Dennis Gilbert blocked a puck out of play.
With both teams still looking for their first goal since the opening period, Peyton Jones continued to come up big for Penn State. With a little over five minutes left in regulation, Colin Theisen launched a rocket slap shot, but Jones made a five-hole save. Seconds later, Matt Hellickson took a shot through traffic from the center point, but Jones made a glove save.
As the minutes wound down, Morris needed to start making big saves of his own. He stopped a wrap-around scoring chance by Denis Smirnov with just over four minutes left in the game. It was looking like this Big Ten semifinal would be heading into a sudden-death overtime.
With just under one minute left in regulation, a Jack Jenkins shot was blocked by a Penn State defender. Another Nittany Lion attempted to clear the puck, but it wound up back on the stick of Jenkins, who fired it past Jones to break the tie and give the Irish the lead with 31 seconds left. The goal ended up being the game winner for Notre Dame, who guaranteed that they’d be hosting the Big Ten Tournament final on St. Patrick’s Day on their home ice.
It’ll be Notre Dame vs. Ohio State for the Big Ten Tournament Championship next Saturday night — St. Patrick’s Day!— Notre Dame Hockey (@NDHockey) March 11, 2018
☘️ | pic.twitter.com/GQQrIp8KQ3
ND - Jordan Gross from Dylan Malmquist and Cal Burke at 06:18 in the 1st
PSU - Nate Sucese from Brandon Biro and Erik Autio at 11:43 in the 1st
ND - Andrew Peeke from Joe Wegwerth and Matt Hellickson at 14:03 in the 1st
PSU - Brandon Biro from Nate Sucese and Erik Autio at 15:43 in the 1st
ND - Jack Jenkins from Dylan Malmquist at 19:29 in the 3rd
ND - Cale Morris saved 43 of 45 shots
PSU - Peyton Jones saved 44 of 47 shots
PSU - Kris Myllari, 2 for tripping at 8:03 in the 1st
ND - Dawson Cook, 2 for cross-checking at 10:08 in the 1st
PSU - Brett Murray, 2 for tripping at 12:04 in the 1st
ND - Tory Dello, 2 for elbowing at 01:43 in the 2nd
PSU - Erik Autio, 2 for tripping at 07:57 in the 2nd
ND - Justin Wade, 2 for interference at 13:49 in the 2nd
- Jack Jenkins
- Jordan Gross
- Peyton Jones
The Irish will host the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Big Ten Tournament final on Sat., Mar. 17 at 8:00 PM EDT