Home woes continue for the Irish in ugly sweep against fifth-ranked Gophers
Nate Moller | Monday, February 15, 2021
Although the Irish swept the then top-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers a month ago in Minneapolis, it was the fifth-ranked Gophers (17-5-0, 12-4-0 Big Ten) who came out victorious at Compton Family Ice Arena this weekend.
The Gophers played like the better team throughout most of the series and secured dominant wins of 3-0 in both games behind stellar play from goaltender Jack LaFontaine and quality puck possession throughout the series. With the loss, the Irish’s home record now sits at 3-10-1.
The Irish (10-11-1, 8-9-1 Big Ten) were outplayed by the Gophers in game one of the series, as they ultimately fell 3-0. Unlike last month’s series in Minneapolis, the Gophers were the better team on special team play, scoring off of a power play and holding the Irish off on multiple power plays in the game, including a five-minute major.
Head coach Jeff Jackson discussed the solid play of the Gophers, who were swept in ugly fashion last weekend against Wisconsin.
“They played very well. They looked like a team that got swept last weekend, and we looked like a team that won big last weekend,” Jackson said. “They’re too good of a team to turn pucks over on. I thought we did a very poor job of managing the puck through the neutral zone, and it led to us turning pucks over and us chasing a lot more than we would prefer to.”
The play of senior goaltender Dylan St. Cyr was great for the Irish on Friday night, and the score probably would have been much worse if it weren’t for a few big saves from him.
Jackson discussed how St. Cyr gave his team a chance to win. St. Cyr saved multiple one-on-one breakaway chances that the Gophers had.
“I can’t put any blame on Dylan for either one of the goals. He gave us an opportunity to win that game, and we just didn’t have enough sustained offense to generate a goal,” Jackson said.
The Gophers’ first goal of the game came just over 10 minutes into the first period after the Irish turned the puck over in their own zone, leading to an easy finish for the Gophers.
St. Cyr and the Irish were able to hold off the Gophers until just four and a half minutes to go in the game when the Gophers scored off of a deflection. The Gophers were then able to add a late empty net goal to secure the 3-0 victory.
Jackson felt that the second goal for the Gophers was inevitable with the way his team was playing.
“We were stuck in the defensive zone for too long and generally when that happens, you are going to break down,” he said. “We had a tired line out there, and they had a fresh line changed in, and they were in the offensive zone, and we eventually broke down.”
The offense for the Irish was also a huge issue Friday night, with the Irish unable to convert on the three power plays that they had, which included a five-minute power play off of a Gopher major penalty.
Jackson was aware that his team needed to play much better on Saturday to have a chance to win.
“We have to play better. They’re a good hockey team. There was a reason they were in first place [in the Big Ten and the country] for so long,” he said.
In the first period on Saturday night, the Irish played much better, controlling the game throughout the majority of the period. Unfortunately for the home team, though, they had nothing to show for it despite out-shooting Minnesota 15-7 in the first period.
From the second period and on, it was all Gophers. Early in the second period, Irish sophomore goaltender Ryan Bischel turned the puck over, and after a few quick passes, the Gophers converted an easy goal to take an early 1-0 lead.
Things only got worse for the Irish from there. Only minutes later, the Gophers were able to keep the pressure on the Irish and slip another shot past Bischel to take a 2-0 lead midway through the second period.
A couple of minutes later, junior forward Graham Slaggert of the Irish was called for hooking, putting the Gophers on the power play with just over eight minutes to go in the second period. It appeared Minnesota had scored once again, but after a lengthy review, the Gophers were called offside, keeping the score at 2-0.
Notre Dame had a couple of good looks late in the second period and into the third period, but the Minnesota offense was too much for the Irish, as Sampo Ranta sealed the 3-0 win for the Gophers with five minutes remaining off of a one-timer shot from a centering pass.
The Irish finished the series 0-for-5 on the power play. Before this weekend’s series, the Irish had only been held scoreless in one other game this season — the season opener against Wisconsin. With the weekend’s results, the Irish fall to fourth place in the Big Ten with 27 points through eighteen conference games. The Gophers climbed to the top of the league with 39 points.
The Irish will be back in action next weekend in Madison against seventh-ranked Wisconsin. On Friday, the puck is scheduled to drop at 8 p.m., and Saturday’s game begins at 5 p.m.