As Andrew Sturtz circled toward one end of Pegula Ice Arena, toward the Roar Zone student section in near-delirium, he also skated past Penn State goalie Peyton Jones.
Jones held out his hands, palms down, and motioned to his teammate to relax.
“He sometimes tends to get a little super excited,” Jones said. “It’s tough to stay calm in an environment like this. Everyone’s going crazy. The puck’s on your stick. You know you can win or lose a game in some situations. It’s just about staying calm. You guys know how he is. He’s a big goofball and gets excited easily, so I just tried to tell him to calm down.”
Sturtz was about to take a penalty shot with 1:36 left in overtime against No. 2 Notre Dame. A goal would have had in impact in so many ways.
Alas, Sturtz was unable to beat Fighting Irish goalie Cale Morris, spoiling the storybook ending to a game that finished in a 2-2 tie.
The No. 17 Nittany Lions did rally from a 2-0 deficit less than 12 minutes into the game, but are still winless in their last seven. It is the longest cold stretch since the 2013-14 season, which was the second year at Division I for the program.
“Really happy with how the team responded being down 2-0 early,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “It was a really good hockey game after that. Would have loved to have pulled it out, but they’re very, very good.”
Sturtz did score in regulation to give him 99 career points, leaving him on the doorstep of becoming the second Nittany Lion with 100. David Goodwin has the program record at 128. Liam Folkes had the other goal for Penn State (13-12-5, 6-9-5-2).
Cal Burke, Dylan Malmquist provided the early 2-0 lead for the Fighting Irish (20-5-2, 15-2-1-1), who got a career-high 55 saves from Morris.
Down 2-0 early, Jones, who has a reputation for keeping his cool, shook off the scores and kept the net empty the rest of the night with his 32 saves. The Nittany Lions also shook it off, recalling the same score the night before in Penn State’s favor, only to see Notre Dame rally.
Sturtz scored late in the first period, then Folkes took a pretty feed from behind the net by Brandon Biro 2:09 into the second period to tie it. Despite plenty of sparkling opportunities in both directions, the game stayed deadlocked through the remaining 47-plus minutes.
Penn State had a few more chances in overtime, but the biggest came when Sturtz barreled toward Morris before getting dragged down by Notre Dame defenseman Justin Wade.
The 6,221 in the arena were ready to erupt, and the Nittany Lions had full faith in the team’s all-time leader in goals scored.
“It’s Sturtz — he scores all the time,” Folkes said. “We were pretty high and we thought he was going to score there to end the game.”
After getting Jones’ advice to try to calm his nerves, Sturtz flew down the ice, tried to put a move on Morris and faded to his right. The sophomore goalie extended his left leg, however, blocking the attempt with his pad.
“I’d take Sturtzy in that situation any time,” Gadowsky said. “No one wants to win more than him. I feel for him. I felt he played a really good game and I thought he definitely deserved that.”
Denied the perfect ending, the teams finished without any more major chances. In a shootout to decide who gets an extra point in the Big Ten standings, each team had three tries. Jordan Gross was the only player to score to lift up the Fighting Irish.
Folkes and Denis Smirnov were stopped on their attempts, and the final opportunity was again on Sturtz’s stick. Again, he could not beat Morris, the nation’s leader in save percentage. Gadowsky had no doubts sending Sturtz out for a second try one-on-one with the goalie.
“If he was a one-move guy, I don’t think we would have done it,” Gadowsky said. “It’s a big game, and I just felt he deserved the opportunity.”
Penn State gets its final break of the season next weekend before heading to Michigan State on Feb. 16-17. The Lions then return home Feb. 23-24 to host Minnesota for the final series of the regular season.