Since joining the Big Ten, Notre Dame has had Penn State’s number.
In their first six conference games against the Fighting Irish, the Nittany Lions were 0-5-1. The key to the Fighting Irish’s success has been no secret — Cale Morris has the tendency to play lights out against the Nittany Lions.
On Saturday, Morris looked like anything but an elite netminder.
The Nittany Lions beat Morris five times on 20 shots en route to a 9-1 victory over the Fighting Irish. Morris was pulled for just the second time in his career after Alec Marsh’s tally midway through the second period.
While the Fighting Irish boast the impressive record against the Nittany Lions, virtually each of those games could have gone in Penn State’s favor. That made Saturday’s win even sweeter.
“I do feel that we’ve played really good games against them in the past but we’ve always come out on the short end,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “I think this was a good hurdle to get over.”
That hurdle became more difficult to overcome after the Fighting Irish opened the scoring just three and a half minutes into the contest. As has been the case many times this season, the Nittany Lions’ top line provided the spark.
Alex Limoges and Evan Barratt had a hand in all three goals the Nittany Lions scored in the first period. Limoges netted back-to-back goals and added an assist, while Barratt picked up helpers on all three.
“That line got us going big time,” Gadowsky said.
While that duo ignited the offense, plenty of other Nittany Lions found their way onto the scoreboard. Thirteen players registered a point as Alec Marsh joined Limoges with a two-goal night. That depth scoring has been important all season, but becomes vital against a team such as Notre Dame.
“We like it. It’s something that we’re trying to achieve. Obviously, you can’t achieve that every night or every weekend,” Gadowsky said. “I think this weekend was an indication that we’re doing a pretty good job with that.”
How It Happened
After opening the scoring early on Friday night, the Nittany Lions found themselves behind just a few minutes into Saturday’s contest. Three and a half minutes into the game, Cal Burke charged down the right wing boards and threw a pass to the front of the net. Cam Morrison found it on the back door and tapped the puck past Peyton Jones.
Much like Friday’s matchup, the team that fell behind first responded quickly. With Nikita Pavlychev in the penalty box, Alex Limoges picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and found himself one-on-one with Cale Morris. Limoges made a quick move and lifted a shot over Morris’s blocker to knot the game at one less than two minutes after the Fighting Irish opened the scoring.
Limoges netted his second of the night midway through the first period. Parked at the side of the net, Limoges quickly knocked in the rebound of Evan Barratt’s shot from the slot.
Four minutes later, Kevin Kerr doubled the Nittany Lions’ lead with his first goal of the season. Set up by Limoges and Barratt, Kerr received a pass in the high slot and fired a wrist shot on net. The puck caromed off a Notre Dame defenseman and floated past Morris.
Early in the second period, the Nittany Lions took advantage of their first power play of the night. After Chase Berger gathered in a pass near the corner, he found Sam Sternschein stationed right in front of Morris. Sternschein tapped the cross-crease pass by Morris to give the Nittany Lions a three-goal lead.
Just past the midway point of the game, the Nittany Lions extended their lead to 5-1 as Alec Marsh guided home a cross-crease pass by Brandon Biro. The goal also spelled a premature end to the night of college hockey’s top netminder, as Cale Morris was pulled for Dylan St. Cyr to clean up the mess.
The switch didn’t stop the Nittany Lions from pouring it on, however. Four minutes after St. Cyr entered the game, Berger lifted a shot over his shoulder on the short side to make it a 6-1 game.
Midway through the final frame, the Nittany Lions took advantage of another power play. After breaking up a shorthanded chance by the Fighting Irish, Aarne Talvitie sprung Nikita Pavlychev on a partial breakaway. Pavlychev used his full 6-foot-8 frame as he drove to the net and chipped a shot past St. Cyr.
The Nittany Lions weren’t done there. Late in the third, after Berger exited the penalty box, he battled for a loose puck in the neutral zone and raced ahead on a 2-on-0 with Marsh. Berger tapped a backhand pass to Marsh, who guided home his second goal of the night.
Evan Barratt capped off the scoring for the night with a minute and a half to play, as he wired a backhand shot past St. Cyr’s blocker.