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Irish drop opening series, rebound with sweep at No. 3 Michigan

| Monday, November 30, 2020

The Notre Dame hockey team kicked off its 2020-21 season with a two-game series against the Wisconsin Badgers at home at the Compton Family Ice Arena on Nov. 13 and 14, followed by a two-game series on the road against the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines on Nov. 27 and 28 at the Yost Ice Arena. The Irish (2-2, 2-2 Big Ten) dropped both games against the Badgers (4-4, 4-2 Big Ten), 2-0 and 5-3, but responded with two wins against the Wolverines (4-2, 2-2 Big Ten), winning 3-2 in game one and 2-1 in game two.

Game one against Wisconsin would see the Irish blanked by a 25-save shutout effort from graduate student goaltender Robbie Beydoun. The Badgers began the scoring in the first period when senior forward Ty Pelton-Byce carved through the Irish defense with an inside out move, sending a cross ice pass over to fellow senior forward Linus Weissbach who shot low glove side, beating senior goaltender Dylan St. Cyr. Wisconsin furthered its lead in the second period on the power play when sophomore forward Dylan Holloway sent a wrist shot from the top of the slot, beating a screened St. Cry glove side. Weissbach and junior forward Roman Ahcan picked up assists on the goal.

The Irish had chances of their own to try and get on the scoresheet, including two shots off of the iron, but ultimately fell short 2-0.

Wisconsin drew first blood again in game two, this time off of the stick of Pelton-Byce in the first period on the power play. The Badgers extended their lead nearly four minutes into the second period when sophomore forward Ryder Donovan scored. With 5:23 left in the second period, Notre Dame would strike for its first goal of the season and the series when senior forward Colin Theisen redirected a puck and hit the back of the net on the power play. Junior forward Michael Graham picked up the assist on the goal.

Just 1:40 later, Theisen tied the game at 2-2 after cranking a one-timer from the right circle past goaltender Beydoun. Junior forward Alex Steeves picked up the assist on the goal with his one-time feed. The 2-2 deadlock did not last long, however, when junior forward Brock Caufield put one past St. Cyr in the dying seconds of the second period to give his team a 3-2 lead going into the dressing room.

The Irish again tied the game up 3-3 when Theisen struck for his third goal of the game and a natural hat trick at the 7:57 mark of the third period. The hat trick effort was not enough, as the Badgers found the back of the net twice more with goals from Holloway and Donovan, respectively, to seal the 5-3 win and series sweep for Wisconsin.

Observer File Photo
Irish senior forward Colin Theisen looks up the ice during Notre Dame’s 5-2 victory over Michigan on Feb. 13, 2019 at Compton Family Ice Arena. Theisen recorded his first career hat trick during Notre Dame’s 5-3 loss to Wisconsin on Nov. 14.

Despite the early season sweep at the hands of Wisconsin, Notre Dame responded with a sweep of its own, grabbing two statement wins against No. 3 Michigan on the road. Solid goaltending from sophomore Ryan Bischel and five goals in two games powered the Irish past the Wolverines.

Notre Dame started the scoring in game one at the 10:31 mark of the first period when junior defenseman Nick Leivermann put a wrist shot from the top of the right circle past Michigan junior goalkeeper Strauss Mann. Graham and Steeves picked up assists on the goal. The Irish widened their lead in the second period when junior defenseman Nate Clurman took a shot from the point that went by a screened Strauss. Junior forward Graham Slaggert and freshman forward Landon Slaggert combined for the assists on Clurman’s first career goal.

Just 1:28 later, Notre Dame struck again for a 3-0 lead. Sophomore forward Max Ellis stood up a zone entry attempt and then delivered a breakaway feed to freshman forward Grant Silianoff, who beat Struass on the high blocker side.

The Wolverines narrowed the lead to 3-1 at the 17:48 mark of the second stanza when senior forward Luke Morgan scored. Michigan cut the Irish lead even further just two minutes into the third frame. Senior forward Michael Pastujov capitalized on an odd-man rush and beat Bischel to make the score 3-2. The goal from Silianoff in the second proved to be the game-winner for the Irish as they held tight defensively to limit any further damage from the Wolverines and win 3-2.

Irish head coach Jeff Jackson was pleased with his team’s effort in picking up a key win on the season and rebounding after the opening series against Wisconsin.

“It was a big first win for our team,” Jackson said. “The fact we got off to a good start was really important. Those first couple of games we were chasing the entire time, so it is a lot easier playing with the lead. I thought we did a good job responding and playing pretty solid and that’s the most important thing.”

Scoring was be at a premium in game two as it took until the third period for either team to score. Both Bischel and Mann put on a goaltending show as they needed to be sharp, facing several quality scoring chances throughout the first two periods. With both teams tied at 0-0 headed into the third, the Irish began to put on the pressure. All that pressure toward the Wolverine net rewarded the Irish as junior defenseman Spencer Stastney put a wrist shot on net that was deflected just under the crossbar, giving the Irish a 1-0 lead with just 2:14 remaining in the game.

Notre Dame tacked on another goal late in the third, this time into an empty net off the stick of Steeves. The empty-net goal would prove to be the game winner as Michigan freshman defenseman Jacob Truscott spoiled Bischel’s shutout attempt and cut the Irish lead to 2-1, which would end up being the final score line.

“It was nice to get that one goal with the Slaggert line out there and then the empty-net goal gave us enough breathing room,” Jackson said. “We’re really excited now about moving forward and we can see if we can continue to get better.”

The Irish now begin a six-game homestand to finish off the remainder of the opening portion of their schedule, starting with a two-game series versus the Arizona State Sun Devils (2-3-1) on Dec, 3and 4. Puck drop for both games is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Compton Family Ice Arena.

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