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Irish post comeback win over Sun Devils after dropping series opener

| Tuesday, December 8, 2020

The No. 15 Notre Dame hockey team (3-3, 2-2 Big Ten) hosted No. 20 Arizona State (3-4-1) at the Compton Family Ice Arena Thursday and Friday. The Irish earned a series split with their last second 5-4 victory in game two after dropping game one to the Sun Devils 6-3.

Game one saw the Sun Devils start hot off the opening faceoff as freshman forward Ryan O’Reilly powered through the Notre Dame zone and beat sophomore netminder Ryan Bischel glove side just 11 seconds into the contest. Arizona State extended their lead to 2-0 a little over a minute later when freshman forward Matthew Kopperud found the back of the net.

The Irish cut into the deficit at the 12:54 mark of the period after sophomore forward Trevor Janicke cashed in on the power play, beating junior goaltender Even DeBrouwer off of a point shot rebound. Junior defenseman Nick Leivermann and senior defenseman Matt Hellickson picked up assists on the tally.

Just 55 seconds after the Notre Dame goal, Sun Devils sophomore forward sophomore Jax Murray scored right off of the offensive zone draw to restore his team’s two goal lead at 3-1. With 51 seconds remaining in the first period, the Irish cut back into the Arizona State lead when junior forward Graham Slaggert cleaned up a net front rebound to bring the score to 3-2. Freshman forward Landon Slaggert combined for the assist on the goal.

In the second stanza, Notre Dame seemed to have momentum swing their way after a stellar penalty killing effort. Despite fending off the man advantage, the Sun Devils struck just seconds after it expired when freshman forward Michael Mancinelli connected with junior forward Demetrios Koumontzis to make the score 4-2, 6:53 into the frame.

Eerily similar to the first period, at the 12:54 mark of the second the Irish again cut the deficit down to one, this time with junior defenseman Nate Clurman beating DeBrouwer through a screen to make it 4-3. Junior forward Jake Pivonka and sophomore forward Max Ellis earned assists on Clurman’s goal.

In the third period, Arizona State restored their two-goal lead a little over nine minutes in. Koumontzis made use of a turnover on a failed Notre Dame breakout and found Kopperud who let a wrist shot go from the left circle, beating Bischel for Kopperud’s second and the visitors’ fifth goal of the night. After the Sun Devil goal, senior goaltender Dylan St. Cyr entered into the game in relief of Bischel. Murray scored his second goal of the game on the empty Irish net with 2:37 remaining, sealing the win for Arizona State 6-3.

Irish head coach Jeff Jackson commented on his team’s performance in the 6-3 loss.

“It wasn’t the same team I saw last weekend … I thought our performance wasn’t nearly as good,” Jackson said. “You have to give Arizona State credit. They’re a really good transition team. They really trap well, and then they really transition well from the trap.”

Coach Jackson also pointed to the lack of puck security as a factor in the game.

“We turned the puck over way too much, gave them way too many scoring opportunities,” Jackson said. “That’s on us because we really didn’t manage the puck the way we needed to.”

In game two, Notre Dame struck early in the first period to earn their first lead of the series. At the 5:10 mark, senior forward Alex Steeves stole the puck away off of a turnover from Arizona State’s O’Reilly, leading to a three-on-two advantage going the other way. Instead of passing the puck away, Steeves elected to take the shot, beating freshman goaltender Cole Brady on the low blocker. Just 13 seconds after Steeves’ goal, Landon Slaggert scored his first career goal after Clurman flipped a puck into the offensive zone which Slaggert handled and batted out of the air past Brady. Janicke picked up the secondary assist.

Momentum swung even further in the direction of the Irish when their penalty killing units stood tall, killing off a 5-on-3 man advantage to keep the Sun Devils off the scoresheet. Despite a well-played period, Arizona State got on the board in the waning seconds when ASU junior forward Jordan Sandhu beat St. Cyr to cut the Irish lead to 2-1 right before intermission.

In the second period, the Irish would again kill off a penalty and, just after the advantage ended, rang one off the post with a senior forward Colin Theisen shot. This would be one of Notre Dame’s few looks in the period as soon after they would be hemmed into their own zone for much of the frame.

Kopperud tied the game at 2-2 off of a Sandhu feed at the 12:51 mark. Four-and-a-half minutes later, Kopperud scored his fourth goal of the series on the powerplay to put his team up 3-2. One minute later, O’Reilly found the back of the net to widen the lead to 4-2 headed into the second intermission.

The Irish came out in the third playing much stronger hockey and began to control more of the possession after being shelled in the second period. Their sustained attack was rewarded when Pivonka made the score 4-3. With 7:22 remaining in the final period, Clurman connected with sophomore forward Solag Bakich on the short side to tie the game up at 4-4.

In the dying seconds of the game, Leivermann held an attempt in at the Sun Devil blue line and put a shot on net. Although his shot was blocked by sophomore defenseman Jack Judson, Leivermann gathered the puck and put another wrist shot on net, this time clearing traffic and beating Brady for the 5-4 game winning goal with 5.1 seconds remaining.

“I actually backed out of the zone pretty far and saw the puck kind of trickling and no one around, so I thought with like 10 seconds left, why not jump back up and try [to] make a play to end the game?” Leivermann said. “First shot got blocked and then just bounced right in my feet and [I] took a whack at it.”

Jackson commented on his team’s first home win on the season.

“I was really happy with our start tonight and that’s the way you have to play at home,” Jackson said. “You can’t chase the game all the time and that’s what we’ve been doing at home so far against Wisconsin and then last night. And even in the second period tonight. we ended up chasing the game a bit. We’re fortunate to come back and get some momentum — which generally is driven by fans — but tonight I think our guys actually responded really well with that energy on the bench in the third period to create momentum for ourselves.”

The Irish now look ahead to their match up against Ohio State (2-4, 2-4 Big 10) which is slated for this Saturday and Sunday at the Compton Family Ice Arena. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. EST for game one and 5 p.m. EST for game two.

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