The Final weekend of the B1G season has come to a close. The Fightin’ Irish needed to fight off their demons of playing at home. Going into the weekend the Irish had a record of 3-10-1, while they they played the road warriors with a 9-2-1 record. The B1G Hockey Conference is not an easy conference to play in. Teams beat each other up, all while they are trying to make the NCAA Frozen Four Tournament. After coming off the weekend sweep on the road against the Spartans, the Fightin’ Irish needed another sweep just to maintain a good seeding in the B1G Conference Tournament. The important point to remember is JUST WIN!!
PSU coming into Friday night had not played in 34 days due to COVID amongst the team. The last the played any live hockey was against the Fightin’ Irish on January 29th, which they lost 3-2 in OT. This was their first live hockey play against an opponent in a month. The Irish tried something different as well on the opening night of the final series. The team decided to where their “Blue” road sweaters to try and find some of that road magic.
Having fresh legs helped PSU in the opening minutes when Mason Snell of PSU scored at 2:41 in the opening period. But the Irish didn’t lose focus. Landon Slaggert at 4:10 responded with his eighth goal of the season with his “3 S” line, his brother Graham Slaggert and Alex Steeves. From there the defenses kicked in and played a penalty free period of Hockey. Dylan St Cyr had an amazing toe save just prior to the end of the period. St Cyr was 14-15 in the Shots On Goal (S.O.G.) stat. Going into the first intermission both teams were knotted at 1-1.
The second period saw the same type of action. The offenses spending decent time on their offensive ends. Neither goalie was going to blink either. PSU likes to open the ice up and take chances. They will typically shoot forty S.O.G a game. The second period saw them continue to fire on St Cyr. At 10:18 Snell scored his second goal of the night after the Irish had a sequence of five shots in which four were S.O.G. against Oskar Autio. PSU up 2-1. The Fightin’ Irish didn’t let PSU get comfortable as Matt Steeves lit the lamp with the equalizer at 11:51.
The first penalty of the game came at 15:36 against Nate Clurman for Hooking. The power play did not materialize for PSU as they on had two S.O.G. while Landon Slaggert had one on Autio. Late in the period, PSU’s Snell goes to the Sin Bin for Tripping at 18:11. Once again the teams are tied at 2-2 going into the intermission. St Cyr is up to twenty four saves on the night.
Whatever Coach Jeff Jackson said at the intermission must have been taken to heart. After PSU kills off the Irish power play, Max Ellis unknown at the time lights the lamp for the game winner at 3:24 early in the third period. Irish lead 3-2. The Irish continued to fire on Autio. On the Irish fifth S.O.G. since the Ellis goal, Freshman Zach Plucinski scores his first collegiate goal at ND at 7:29. The insurance goal brings the score to 4-2. The Fightin’ Irish didn’t play to defend the lead, they played to win the game. With that being said, at 15:00 The fifth different Irish scorer on the night lights the lamp for the final time. Nate Clurman gets number four of the season securing the Irish victory at home 5-2.
Saturday “Senior Night”
Senior Night is always a special night. A night of emotion and for some it means their last regular season career game at Notre Dame. Emotions can get the best of you if you don’t keep them in check. The beginning of the game, the Fightin’ Irish were quite aggressive. Pounding Oskar Autio like they did the night before. In a burst that all changed at 8:33 in the first period. Christian Sarlo got the puck by Senior Dylan St Cyr to give PSU a 1-0 lead.
Both teams tried to find a wrinkle in the opposing defense but there was no wrinkle to be found. Even when the Irish were in a temporary five on three scenario. Zach Plucinski went to the Sin Bin at 14:42 for Hooking, and Landon Slaggert followed at 16:39. Even for three seconds it’s never good to be down two men for any length of time. Both goalies got work in as Autio fought off twelve S.O.G. and St Cyr battled fourteen. Alex Steeves had two short handed attempts denied by Autio on the Irish penalty kills. The Nittany Lions took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission. Once again, St Cyr faced 14 S.O.G. in the first period.
The second period was about catching up and maintaining momentum for the Fightin’ Irish. The “3S” line did it again. Wasting no time coming out of the intermission, Alex Steeves scored the equalizer on goal number fifteen on the season at 0:33 seconds into the second period. The game is slowing down for him and his cerebral puck handling is paying dividends at the right time. The game is knotted at 1-1. Approximately four minutes later, Jake Pivonka gets his second goal of the season at 4:46, unknown at that time, that would be the game winner and a score of 2-1. The lack of play for PSU started to show early in the period. PSU was playing a lot of defense and at 8:28 in the second period Trevor Janicke scored his third goal of the season to give the Irish three unanswered goals and a 3-1 lead.
When a team gets frustrated, chippy play starts to occur. A Kerfuffle erupted between the two teams sending Mason Snell and Solag Bakich to the Sin Bin for matching Roughing penalties at 13:52. Though PSU had the better of the 4-4 play, neither team scored on the man down play. The period wound down with the Irish having a 3-1 lead. St Cyr was had another busy period with fourteen saves.
Jesse Lansdell was not going to be left out of the scoring blitz by the Fightin’ Irish offense. Lansdell’s goal at 1:16 gave the Irish a 4-1 lead and the hook for Oskar Autio of PSU. Liam Souliere got between the pipes for the Nittany Lions. PSU started to mount a challenge on offense but kerfuffle number two occurred. Originally Snell was called for Roughing at 4:52 in the third period, Coach Jackson challenged an additional penalty. There was a clear Contact To The Head penalty on PSU. After the review, Christian Berger gets levied a five minute Major for Contact To The Head and a ten minute game misconduct for the hit on the back of the neck. Though the 5-3 advantage for the Irish didn’t result in any goals, it tired out the Nittany Lions.
Shortly after both penalties expired, Janicke got his second goal of the afternoon at 11:26. Upping the Irish lead 5-1. Max Ellis added to the Irish tally at 15:35. Scoring his fifth goal of the season and putting the Irish up 6-1 and PSU enters their third goalie of the game Will Holtforster. At 18:02 in the period, the “3S” line does it one more time. This time Graham Slaggert lights the lamp for the final goal of the game and the 7-1 victory for the sweep of PSU at home. That’s how you send out your Senior Class!
The Wrap Up
Being that it was Senior Night, here are the stats of the Seniors on Senior Night. Matt Hellickson played in his 145th consecutive game going back to his Freshman season and had an assist. Dylan St Cyr seventy 75 saves on 78 attempts this weekend against PSU. Nick Sanford got the game at 4:25 in the third period and had a save. Pierce Crawford had 1 shot, Matt Steeves had 2 shots, Colin Theisen almost had a goal, had 2 assists and and 5 shots.
The B1G Conference starts next Sunday at noon at Compton Family Ice Arena. The Fightin’ Irish will play these same PSU Nittany Lions in a win and move on format of the B1G Conference Tournament. It will not be an easy task as PSU is not going to want to lose three consecutive games to the Irish. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.
Cheers and Go Irish! ☘🏒🥅🚨🌩