After two brilliant individual goals earlier in the game, the fate of No. 8 Penn State (2-1) came down to Tom LaCrosse’s stick.
With just seconds on the clock and his team down one goal, LaCrosse looked for any room he could to try and get one last shot at Notre Dame’s net.
His prayer was answered as the junior scored his fifth goal of the season from long range to tie the game with less than one second left Sunday afternoon in Holuba Hall.
“I can’t even explain it,” LaCrosse said. “I asked for the ball and saw I had some open space and just heaved it at the goal.”
While the Lions ended up falling in overtime, 10-9, LaCrosse’s goal gave the Lions renewed hope after the team was up 8-7 with just 24 seconds left. Eight seconds and two goals later, the Lions found themselves trailing.
Needing a faceoff win to ice the game, the Irish’s Liam O’Connor matched up against Danny O’Henneghan at the faceoff circle.
O’Henneghan won the crucial face-off, setting up the final possession. Kessler Brown picked up the ground ball, raced down the field and found Michael Richards. Richards then fed the ball to LaCrosse.
“Liam may have been our best player and our worst player,” Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan said. “He made a number of mental errors that were a little bit distressing to us because he’s a junior. As a kid with a high IQ, we don’t expect him to make many errors.”
It was a back-and-forth game for both sides as neither team led by more than two goals.
With Notre Dame leading 4-3, the Lions turned to LaCrosse to get them back in the game. After a 15-minute span of no goals, LaCrosse scored a brilliant individual goal as he cut inside to level the game at four.
With Notre Dame scoring two goals in a six-minute span to tie the game at seven, LaCrosse stepped up big once again. For the second time, the junior worked inside and fired a shot past All-American goalie John Kemp to give the Lions an 8-7 lead.
The Lions held this lead until Notre Dame’s stunning comeback.
“I’m pretty sure it was in everybody’s head that this was going to be tough…we went nuts,” goalie Austin Kaut said of the final minute that produced three goals. “We thought, hey, it’s going to come down to one more stop, one more shot and we didn’t get that one save.”
One week after Denver scored three goals in four minutes in the fourth against the Lions, they were once again faced with late adversity.
LaCrosse attempted to win the game in overtime but his shot was denied by the stick of Kemp. The Irish picked up the ground ball and it was the last time the Lions saw the ball. Matt Kavanagh scored with 1:34 left in overtime to win the game for the Irish.
“We got to make sure we can finish games,” LaCrosse said. “The past two games we slowed down at the end a little bit.”