February 24, 2013

Notre Dame, Kavanagh Outlast Penn State in OT Thriller

by Mike Still | LaxMagazine.com | Related: Rapid Reaction/Live Blog Replay

In Sunday's overtime thriller, Notre Dame scored two goals in six seconds to take a 9-8 lead with 18 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Penn State tied the game with less than one second left to force OT before Matt Kavanagh tallied the winner. Conor Doyle (above) tied the score at 8 with 24 seconds left.
© Craig Houtz

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Sixty minutes wasn't enough time to decide a winner the last time Notre Dame took on Penn State. On Sunday, the matchup between the two top 10 teams was no different.

Freshman Matt Kavanagh's overtime goal lifted the No. 3 Fighting Irish past the eighth-ranked Nittany Lions, 10-9, in a back-and-forth battle before 1,249 fans inside Holuba Hall on Penn State's campus. The game had been moved inside due to frigid temperatures, and the atmosphere in the indoor facility was loud and raucous for the extra-time thriller.

"We thought it would be this kind of game," Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan said. "They're a very good team. They keep you in a close game, and we made too many mental errors not to separate ourselves from them. So we were where we deserved to be at that point in the game. It was just about making the next play."

Last season, Penn State defeated Notre Dame 4-3 in overtime in South Bend. While this year's matchup featured more goals on the scoreboard, it was another defensive battle for both squads.

Neither team ever led by more than two goals, and there were five lead changes.

"Talk about a roller coaster..." Penn State coach Jeff Tambroni said. "I told them in the huddle, there's a difference between losing a game and failing to create an effort on the field. And in no way, shape or form did Penn State fall short of that. Unfortunately, Notre Dame was just one goal better."

The end-of-game sequence — in which three goals were scored between the two teams in the final 24 seconds to force overtime — was one to remember.

The Nittany Lions held a one-goal lead with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. A turnover at the 1:45 mark gave Notre Dame possession and the Irish quickly took a timeout after clearing.

Senior captain Ryan Foley found teammate Conor Doyle in front of the net out of the timeout, and Doyle buried a shot past Penn State goalie Austin Kaut to tie the game at 8 with 24 seconds to go.

On the ensuing faceoff, Liam O'Connor scooped up possession and drove to the cage. O'Connor scored the go-ahead just six seconds later to send Notre Dame's sideline into hysteria.

"He played unbelievable," Kavanagh said of O'Connor, who finished with two goals. "He was pushing the ball in transition. We were getting our opportunities in transition off the faceoffs because on their ride, they had two guys back. It was a slow clear but Liam really dictated the tempo."

O'Connor lost the next faceoff, however, giving the Nittany Lions one final attempt to equalize. Streaking in off the sideline, junior midfielder Tom LaCrosse took a feed in the open field and charged through a crowd of Irish defenders. LaCrosse's desperation shot in traffic beat Notre Dame All-American John Kemp with less than a second left on the clock.

"I can't even explain it," LaCrosse said. "I asked for the ball, saw I had some open space and just heaved it at the goal. My teammates got through. There was no time left so I couldn't pass. I just shot it at the goal and hoped for the best."

"They just slipped backside and I lost him off the ball."

— Penn State goalie Austin Kaut on Matt Kavanagh's winning goal

The two teams exchanged blows for the first couple minutes of overtime, but neither could end it. Kaut made a stop off his facemask just moments before Foley found Kavanagh on the crease to send in the game-winner.

"They just slipped backside and I lost him off the ball," Kaut said of Kavanagh. "But that's no excuse. We played well as a defense today, but all it takes is one chance."

Kavanagh has five goals through his first two collegiate games. The Rockville Centre, N.Y.-native and MVP for Team USA at the FIL U19 World Championships over the summer in Finland, scored four times last week in a 13-5 win over then-No.4 Duke.

"Matt's a playmaker," Corrigan said. "We didn't put him into many positions today to make plays, so I'm glad he got a chance at the end to do something."

Notre Dame improved to 15-5 overall against Penn State, including wins in nine of the last 10 showdowns. The Nittany Lions, however, have given the Irish some trouble as of late. Before winning in overtime last season, Penn State lost 6-2 to Notre Dame in 2011.

While it may be too early and too lopsided to consider the matchup a true rivalry, both sides indicated they're very much interested in continuing to battle for years to come.

"I hope we can get to a point where they consider us a rival," Tambroni said. "We haven't been in that conversation for quite some time... Penn State's still building. But if we can get to that point where people starting putting us in that conversation with Notre Dame, then we'll take that as a compliment."

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