UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Peyton Jones stared up at the video board, trying to figure how the puck squirted through his legs and into the net.
That goal gave No. 2 Notre Dame a 5-3 lead in the third period, one the Fighting Irish wouldn't relinquish as Penn State's home crowd was silenced. On a night where the No. 17 Nittany Lions (13-12-4, 6-9-4-2 Big Ten) had everything to gain, a trip up the Pairwise rankings was not in the cards as Penn State's 2-0 first-period lead was quickly forgotten.
"Other than the result it was a great night," Guy Gadowsky said. "Excellent team, phenomenal atmosphere and I just feel really bad that we couldn't pull this one off."
This game also spoke to the strength of this conference, one that will continue to give Penn State ample opportunities in terms of quality opponents that ultimately could lead to more NCAA appearances, but the Big Ten is a talented, jumbled mess. When it comes time for the conference tournament next month anyone can win it. In spurts Friday night the Lions certainly looked like they could hang.
"I thought we played them really well for spurts of time. I think we proved we can play with them,"said Chase Berger, who scored two goals. "You can't be really good for three quarters of a game or good teams are going to capitalize on that. I guess they showed us that if you want to beat them you've got to beat them for 60 minutes."
With six Big Ten teams in the top-20 in the Pairwise rankings the margin of error will be so small on any night, a lesson Penn State learned within the past month as Gadowsky’s team is now winless in the past six games. That lesson was magnified again Friday night against Notre Dame (21-5-1, 15-2-0-0), another blow to the Lions' season, this one coming with extra heartache after Penn State jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first period.