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Notre Dame unable to notch win over Minnesota

| Monday, February 17, 2020

The Notre Dame hockey team, in an important conference matchup, managed to tie one and lose one against Minnesota, one of the hottest teams in college hockey right now. The winless weekend brings the Irish to 12-12-6 overall with a 7-8-5 record in the competitive Big Ten.

Allison Thornton | The Observer
Irish sophomore forwards Alex Steeves (front) Graham Slaggert (back) skate alongside each other during Notre Dame’s 3-2 overtime victory over Ohio State on Nov. 8 at Compton Family Ice Arena.

Coming off of a bye, the Irish got off to a slow start Friday night, finding themselves down 2-0 in the first period after junior forward Scott Reedy and sophomore forward Blake McLaughlin of Minnesota slotted two early on. Reedy’s goal came just 28 seconds into the first period, and McLaughlin’s came 13 minutes into the contest.

The Irish managed to bounce back quickly, as junior forward Colin Theisen found the back of the net just 96 seconds after McLaughlin’s score. Sophomore defenseman Nick Leivermann would add to the efforts and tie the game early in the second with his fifth career goal. The contest ended up going into overtime at 3-3, and after no winner was declared in the overtime period, Minnesota took home the conference point after winning the shootout.

After the game, Irish head coach Jeff Jackson attributed the slow start to the bye week and said, overall, his team did a pretty good job against a good Minnesota team.

“[It was] playoff hockey, basically. It was a good game. My only disappointment was falling behind 2-0, chasing the game. But we came back. We took the lead in the second period. You just hope you could hang on to finish it off,” he said. “It’s usually the first period after a bye week that you struggle a bit. I didn’t think we struggled that poorly, it was just that [Minnesota’s] top line scored a couple of nice goals, and we didn’t defend real well off either one of them, frankly. The first one was just a tough bounce at the point. The second one was more of a rush situation. But I thought we played pretty well for the most part. I thought all four lines did a pretty good job; our defense did a pretty good job. We just have to come back at them tomorrow.”

After a tough battle on night one, the Irish were unable to redeem the shootout loss in night two, succumbing to the Gophers 2-1 in a close battle.

Things didn’t start as quickly in the second game for either squad, as the first period ended with both teams scoreless. But 8:01 into the second period, Leivermann added another goal on the weekend, giving the Irish the lead. Unfortunately for the Irish, it would be their only goal of the evening.

Early on in the third, the Irish managed to kill a Gopher power play, but soon after, the Gophers took advantage of a crucial turnover at the blue line and tied the game at one. Then, 6:16 into the third, McLaughlin added another goal on the weekend off a rebound, and the Gophers would hang on to that 2-1 lead throughout regulation.

After the game, Jackson said it came down to some crucial mistakes for the Irish.

“We made a blatant turnover to lead to the first goal,” he said. “It was that and then the penalty, obviously, went to both goals. I thought after the second period I felt good about where we were. We turned the tables on them in the second period, and we started the third right away with a bad turnover and then a penalty. Same thing as last night basically.”

Going forward, Jackson said his squad needs to learn to play 60 minute hockey and maintain that killer instinct throughout the remainder of the season.

“We have to find a way to play 60 minute hockey games. That’s where it starts. Just like Minnesota, Minnesota and Michigan are two of the hottest teams in the country in the second half of the year here. We lost two games to Michigan earlier in the year. We have to play smart,” he said. “To me, that’s the number one thing. We need to play like a more mature hockey team, and that’s on me. I’ve been trying to get these guys to understand how they have to play and do it for 60 minutes. I thought — in the second game against Wisconsin and then both nights with Penn State — I thought we were turning the corner. But this weekend, I thought there were periods that we played very well, and last night I thought we played pretty well for pretty much the whole game. But, [in] the third period again we gave up the lead. Instead of trying to get that next goal, we do something that leads to a goal against and all of the sudden we’re on our heels, and that happened again tonight. So, for me, it’s just poise, and patience and maturity. … When you’ve got the lead, you’ve got to play smart. You can’t take penalties, you can’t make blatant turnovers and you have to make sure you don’t give up odd man rushes. You can still play with a killer instinct and try to score another goal without doing those things.”

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