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Irish hockey skates past Michigan State, 5-0

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey team opened Big 10 conference play with a 5-0 win over the visiting Michigan State Spartans Friday night. The Irish were speedy and opportunistic all night, getting goals from five different scorers in the win.

Goaltender Ryan Bischel was again solid for Notre Dame, kicking out all 30 shots he faced for his second shutout of the season. With the loss, Michigan State drops to 4-3-0 on the season, despite the best efforts of former Irish netminder and current Spartan graduate student goalie Dylan St. Cyr, who made 28 saves in his return to Compton Family Ice Arena.

In the first, Michigan State played well, steadily dictating the play and often attacking the Notre Dame blue line on the rush, though they were not able to generate many chances. Despite giving up 11 shots, the Irish held the Spartans to the perimeter and allowed very few high-quality opportunities between the face-off circles.

Despite not controlling play, Notre Dame was opportunistic on the chances it generated in the period. After killing off a penalty taken by senior captain Nick Leivermann, the Irish struck for their first goal of the night. Breaking out of their own end after the penalty-kill, junior forward Ryder Rolston found sophomore Justin Janicke breaking for the net on a three-on-two. Rolston threaded the needle with the pass perfectly across the seam, and with a quick tap of his stick, Janicke deposited the puck into the wide-open goal. It was Janicke’s second of the season, and gave Notre Dame the lead eight minutes into the contest. 

Later, as the end of the period loomed, Rolston found himself again making a break for the net on a three-on-two. With more speed down the right side of the ice, Rolston this time elected to shoot. With a brisk snapshot, Rolston beat his former teammate and freshman-year roommate St. Cyr’s high glove to give the Irish a 2-0 lead heading to the locker room.

Notre Dame got to work quickly in the second period, playing some of their best hockey of the game to start the frame. Capitalizing off a Michigan State turnover, the Irish applied pressure until senior captain Nick Leivermann found the back of the net with a snapshot from the perimeter of the face-off circle. Hunter Strand garnered an assist for his tremendous vision to see Leivermann pinching in from the point, as he zipped a diagonal pass across the slot to set up the goal. Chase Blakmun also added an assist, and Notre Dame led 3-0.

The Irish continued to pressure after the Leivermann goal, keeping St. Cyr busy with shots from any and all angles. As Michigan State weathered the storm, they caught a break when, at a stoppage midway through the period, the referees decided to review a hit laid by Notre Dame’s Drew Bavaro. Upon review, they determined Bavaro made illegal head contact with a Spartan player and assessed him a five-minute major penalty. 

With an opportunity to get back in the game, Michigan State was slow getting set up on the power-play, and by the time they did, it was close to expiring. Nonetheless, Michigan State senior forward Jagger Joshua and freshman forward Daniel Russell both got chances in a netmouth scrabble. This was Michigan State’s most threatening moment on offense, but in the end, the Irish managed to kill the penalty and the period ended with Notre Dame still in the lead 3-0.

The Irish added icing to the cake in the third, as they potted two more goals, one from graduate student forward Chayse Primeau and another from Strand. Primeau’s goal came in transition on yet another odd-man rush, while Strand finished off a nice feed from sophomore defenseman Ryan Helliwell on the power-play.

In the stat column, Rolston and Primeau paced the Irish, each picking up three points. Playing on the same line, the two players seemed to be clicking all night and showed great chemistry with and without the puck

“It was evident tonight, and this week in practice we got a feel for it, too,” Rolston said. “We were excited to play together tonight, and good things happened.”

It was the second straight shutout on home ice for Bischel, who continues to find his rhythm between the pipes for the Irish. Bischel now has shutouts in two of his last three games, and has started in every game so far this season.

In his return to Compton Family Ice Arena, St. Cyr played well in the net for Michigan State, despite the five goals Notre Dame scored. On at least two of the goals, St. Cyr had no chance of making a save due to Notre Dame’s quick puck movement in transition. In addition, Spartan freshman phenomenons Karsen Dowart (6 points this season) and Daniel Russell (team-leading 9 points this season) both showed flashes of brilliance in this game, but ultimately were unable to break through.

The Spartans and Irish will wrap up the two-game weekend series tomorrow night. The puck drops at 6 p.m.

Coach’s comments

Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson made some line changes this week after getting shut out 4-0 last Saturday at Western Michigan. In particular, senior Solag Bakich moved up to form a line with Primeau and Rolston, while senior Jesse Lansdell moved onto a line with Strand and graduate student Jack Adams. All this in an effort to generate more consistent offense

“Part of the reason we made the change is that we hadn’t been scoring 5-on-5 very consistently, and needed to see if we could come up with something different that might help us” Jackson said.

Notre Dame continues to refine their game to achieve an elite level of play consistently. The lineup changes had to due with finding more consistent 5-on-5 offense, but consistency is the standard for success in NCAA hockey, and the Irish continue to strive for it.

Friday notes from out-of-town

@ No. 14 Harvard 5, Dartmouth 2. Dartmouth took a 2-0 first period lead in this one, but Harvard scored 5 consecutive goals after the first intermission. Los Angeles Kings prospect Alex Laferriere had two of them.

@ Maine 2, No. 15 Northeastern 2 (Maine wins shootout). The Black Bears under second-year head coach Ben Barr are proving to have tough luck at home. They beat Quinnipiac 4-0 last week in the first game of a weekend set, and came back from 2-0 down in the third in this one.

@ No. 18 UMass Lowell 2, No. 9 Boston University 1. These two figure to be around the top of a very strong-looking Hockey East conference by the end of the year. All the scoring happened in the second period of this game, with the Riverhawk goals coming from Ben Meehan and Matt Crasa for the win. Domenick Fensore scored for BU.

No. 3 Denver 4 @ Miami 0. Carter Mazur had a natural hat trick in the third period for Denver as the Pioneers tamed Miami and red-hot goaltender Ludvig Persson on the road.

@ No. 11 Ohio State 6, No. 1 Minnesota 0. The Buckeyes are 7-1-1 to start the season, and if they hadn’t caught your attention yet, they certainly will have now. At one point, OSU led 6-2, and had to stave off a late Minnesota attack.

Other notable scores: No. 16 Penn State 2 @ Wisconsin 1; @ No. 4 Michigan 5, No. 17 Western Michigan 4; @ No. 19 Minnesota Duluth 3, No. 20 Cornell 2; @ Bemidiji State 3, No. 2 St. Cloud State 1; Alaska Fairbanks 2 @ Northern Michigan 1.

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