Hoping to reverse their home-ice struggles, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish wore their road blue uniforms as they welcomed the Penn State Nittany Lions to Compton Family Ice Arena for the final series of the regular season. on Friday. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the Nittany Lions hadn’t played since January, when they split a series with this weekend’s opponent.
Despite 34 days off, the Nittany Lions showed no rust. Just a few minutes into the contest, Mason Snell opened the scoring with a shot from the blue line, thanks in part to a great screen by Connor McMenamin. The goal was one of 15 shots in the opening frame by Penn State, who also had 8 shots blocked by Notre Dame in the period.
A little less than a minute later, the top line of Notre Dame came up big once again to even the score. Hobey Baker finalist Alex Steeves blocked a Penn State shot, created a two-on-one, pulled his way around a defenseman and backhanded the puck toward the net. This allowed Landon Slaggert to bury it for his eighth of the season.
Midway through the second, the Irish had a couple great opportunities up front but couldn’t get anything past Oskar Autio. Seconds later, on the other end of the ice, Snell centered a pass which went off a Notre Dame skate to get past Dylan St. Cyr.
Just like in the first, it only took Notre Dame a little over a minute to tie it up. However, this time it was the second line’s turn to respond. A backhand pass from Pierce Crawford found a wide open Matt Steeves who put it past Autio. Both teams got their first power-play opportunities near the end of the period, but the game remained 2-2 going into intermission.
Both games went into overtime the last time these teams met for a series, but the Irish would make sure that history didn’t repeat itself. Jesse Landsdell brought the puck into the offensive zone and found Max Ellis who scored his fourth of the season. Four minutes later, Zach Plucinski found an open net for his first career goal.
With five minutes to go, a shot by Landsdell was deflected by Notre Dame captain Nate Clurman and tipped home. The goal was reviewed due to a Clurman hit on Paul DeNaples, but the score stood, as the Irish secured a 5-2 win going into Saturday’s regular season finale.
Penn State: Mason Snell at 02:41 in the 1st, assisted by Connr McMenamin and Kevin Wall
Notre Dame: Landon Slaggert at 04:10 in the 1st, assisted by Alex Steeves
Penn State: Mason Snell at 10:18 in the 2nd, assisted by Tim Doherty
Notre Dame: Matt Steeves at 11:51 in the 2nd, assisted by Pierce Crawford and Grant Silianoff
Notre Dame: Max Ellis at 03:24 in the 3rd, assisted by Jesse Landsdell and Matt Hellickson
Notre Dame: Zach Plucinski at 07:29 in the 3rd, assisted by Trevor Janicke and Grant Silianoff
Notre Dame: Nate Clurman at 15:00 in the 3rd, assisted by Jake Pivonka and Jesse Landsdell
Notre Dame: Nate Clurman, 2 for hooking at 15:36 in the 2nd
Penn State: Mason Snell, 2 for tripping at 18:11 in the 2nd
Notre Dame: Jesse Landsdell, 2 for cross-checking at 18:20 in the 3rd
Notre Dame: Dylan St. Cyr (W) saved 38 of 40 shots
Penn State: Oskar Autio (L) saved 29 of 34 shots
The Irish and Nittany Lions will close out the 2020-21 regular season on Saturday at 5:30 P.M. The game can be streamed on on NBCSports.com.