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Irish split series against 10th-ranked Gophers

| Monday, January 31, 2022

It was a tale of two games for the 11th-ranked Irish (18-8-0, 10-6-0-5-1-0 B1G) this weekend against the 10th-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers (15-11-0, 10-6-0-1-2-0 B1G). The Golden Gophers won game one in dominating 5-1 fashion but the Irish responded with a 3-2 overtime victory on Saturday night.

It was all Minnesota on Friday night with the Gophers holding a 3-0 advantage after the first period of play.

Both teams got off to a very sloppy start with neither team recording a shot on goal in the first 6 minutes of the game.

The Gophers would take advantage of their first shot, however, to take a 1-0 lead at the 6:05 mark of the period. The goal was scored by Grant Cruikshank, who won the puck off of an Irish turnover in the neutral zone and then slipped a shot past graduate student goaltender Matthew Galajda.

Just a couple of minutes later, the Gophers took advantage of their second shot on target to score again and take a 2-0 advantage.

It only got worse for the Irish several minutes later when the Gophers found the back of the net yet again at the 11:09 mark of the period to take a very sizable 3-0 lead. That was the third goal given up by Galajda in just over a 5-minute span, which prompted head coach Jeff Jackson to make a change and put junior Ryan Bischel in net.

In addition to struggling on defense in the first period, the Irish struggled to attack the net early on, failing to have a shot on target over the game’s first 10 minutes of play.

Although the Irish had a power-play opportunity at the end of the first period, they were unable to possess the puck for long, and the Irish went into the first intermission in a 3-0 hole.

The start of the second period did not go any better for the Irish, as Gopher forward Sammy Walker slipped a shot past Bischel just 37 seconds into the period to increase the lead to 4-0.

The Irish finally got on the board towards the end of the period when junior forward Trevor Janicke tipped in a shot from graduate student defenseman Chase Blackmun. That goal was good for Janicke’s ninth goal of the season.

The Irish were not able to narrow the margin any further, however, as the Gophers struck again at the end of the period to take a dominating 5-1 lead after the second period of play.

The Irish got some solid looks in the third period, but no goals were scored over the remainder of the game and the Gophers won the series opener 5-1 and opened up a six-point lead over the Irish in the Big Ten standings.

After the game Friday, head coach Jeff Jackson said his team made a lot of mistakes.

“Most of the problems we had were self-inflicted,” Jackson said. “We gave up way too many odd-man rushes … that was a result of not doing a good job with the puck in certain areas of the ice and then in other areas, we were overextending.”

The Gophers’ defense thwarted the Irish all night, and Jackson discussed the Gophers’ their defense when it is firing on all cylinders.

“They present a double threat,” Jackson said. “They have a lot of skill, and when they play well defensively, they become a real challenge on transition offensively. You certainly have to play well defensively against them and pick your spots to generate offense against them.”

Saturday’s game started out a lot different from Friday with the Irish coming out of the gates firing on all cylinders and looking much more energized.

The Irish struck first in this one while skating four-on-four when junior forward Max Ellis scored on a wrist shot from the top of the circle at the 4:30 mark of the first period.

The Irish continued to keep the pressure on the Gophers throughout the period, and they broke through again at the 16:45 mark in the period when Trevor Janicke finished off a feed in front from sophomore forward Landon Slaggert. With that goal, Janicke has scored in the last three games for the Irish.

With 1:23 left in the first period, the Gophers got a really good look, but Ryan Bischel made a big glove stop to preserve the two-goal Irish lead after the first period.

The Gophers came out of the gates quick in the second period, however, and they got on the board at the 1:27 mark of the period when Ben Meyers slipped a shot past Bischel.

Bischel was great down the stretch in the second period, denying the Gophers eleven times in the period to preserve a narrow 2-1 lead for the Irish.

The Gophers were able to net another goal at the 1:23 mark of the third period to tie the game at two apiece. It was Bryce Brodzinski who scored for the Gophers off of a tipped feed pass.

Both teams battled it down the stretch in the third period, but 60 minutes was not enough to decide this one and the game went into overtime.

The Irish ended it quickly in overtime, scoring just 32 seconds into the period. It started with senior defenseman Spencer Stastney, who got the puck to senior forward Graham Slaggert, who then found his brother Landon in the offensive zone. Landon then scored on his own rebound to give the Irish a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory over the Gophers.

With the win, the Irish remain in striking distance of the Gophers, who are four points ahead of the Irish in the Big Ten standings.

The Irish will return to action next weekend when they host the Penn State Nittany Lions on Feb. 4 and 5 at the Compton Family Ice Arena.

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About Nate Moller

Nate is a junior majoring in chemical engineering. He is originally from a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota and is currently living in Siegfried Hall. Some of his passions include running, cross country skiing, and getting too worked up about Notre Dame and Minnesota sports teams.

Contact Nate