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Irish battle to split series against No. 3 Michigan

By Tom Zwiller and Andrew McGuinness

No. 18 Notre Dame hockey began its series against the No. 3 University of Michigan Wolverines on Friday night. In honor of Veterans Day, the sellout crowd sang the national anthem. And at its conclusion, four army ROTC cadets repelled from the jumbotron catwalk.

The game was incredibly physical before the puck drop, with both sets of wings getting into skirmishes awaiting the opening faceoff.

Early in the first, graduate student defenseman Nick Leivermann took a cross-checking penalty, giving Michigan the man advantage.

The Wolverines utilized the powerplay efficiently, scoring just under a minute into the penalty. Mackie Samsokevich took a pass from Luke Hughes and carried it from point to point. His cross-ice shot hit the post and bounced in, giving the Wolverines a 1-0 lead.

After a Luca Fantilli holding penalty gave the Irish a man advantage, Michigan was nearly able to kill off the penalty, clearing the puck twice. However, with just 14 seconds left in the penalty, Leivermann took a shot just above the left faceoff circle. The puck made its way behind the net, where graduate student forward Chayse Primeau found an open Leivermann, who buried the puck.

Early in the second, a poor turnover by sophomore forward Hunter Strand allowed Michigan’s T.J. Hughes to take advantage of an unset Notre Dame defense. Hughes found Eric Ciccolini, who scored from the slot to put the Wolverines up 2-1.

With just under nine minutes in the second, Michigan continued their aggressive play and scored the third goal, with Dylan Duke tipping a shot from Adam Fantilli right outside the crease.

Shortly after, an excellent breakout pass by Keaton Pehrson allowed Jackson Hallum an odd-man rush opportunity. Hallum beat his man, who appeared to be coming from a line change, creating a one-on-one with Irish graduate student netminder Ryan Bischel. Hallum beat him to the right with a backhand shot.

Irish senior forward Jesse Lansdell would provide the Wolverines with another power play opportunity with a tripping penalty. And the No. 2 power play unit in the country got to work. Off a faceoff in the Irish zone, Samoskevich found T.J. Hughes in the slot, and he put the Wolverines up 5-1.

The third period saw no goals for either team. Instead, a slew of penalties would make a minor league hockey team blush. The Irish had five penalties. Sophomore defenseman Ryan Helliwell earned a roughing minor. Senior forward Trevor Janicke earned two trips to the box. And his brother, sophomore forward Justin Janicke, got a 10-minute misconduct for roughing.

Not to be outdone, Michigan committed eight penalties, including two misconducts. One of which was a charging the goalie penalty by Nolan Moyle, who was ejected from the game.

Saturday’s game, however, would play out much differently. The Irish got off to a fairly strong start, generating several odd-man rushes and catching an early post courtesy of sophomore center Tyler Carpenter. However, the Wolverines would answer that close chance almost immediately after with a goal. Ethan Edwards cleaned up a rebound on a shot from the left point that was deflected en route to Bischel.

For the second straight night, special teams appeared to be tilting things in Michigan’s favor for good. The Irish generated tons of pressure on their first man advantage of the night but couldn’t light the lamp. The Irish did keep the Wolverines at bay for most of their first power play. But almost out of nowhere, Samoskevich beat Bischel clean with a wrist shot from the left hash marks, doubling the Michigan lead.

But this time, the Irish would not go quietly. Their performance in the second period wasn’t the prettiest — Notre Dame was outshot 8-6 and took a couple of penalties. But the finish they lacked in the first was suddenly readily available. For an Irish team looking for more from its depth, head coach Jeff Jackson had to be encouraged by the gorgeous passing play his fourth-line put together that ended with graduate student right winger Jack Adams finding Carpenter backdoor for his first goal of the year.

Then, a somewhat contested too-many-men call went against Michigan with 2:07 left in the second, giving the Irish a golden chance to equalize. Sure enough, they would take advantage, with Leivermann making an excellent pass to set up Primeau for a backdoor tap-in.

The Irish came out guns blazing to start the third, registering the frame’s first four shots and forcing Michigan netminder Erik Portillo to make some difficult saves. Bischel picked up his game too after the somewhat shaky Samoskevich goal, including a massive breakaway stop on Hallum about five minutes into the third. He then denied Wolverines star Luke Hughes off a net-mouth scramble a few moments later. Portillo answered with a huge stop on Notre Dame graduate student defenseman Ben Brinkman off a similar sequence.

After the Irish were unable to capitalize on another late period power play, overtime became necessary for the third time in Notre Dame’s season. After a strong defensive play by junior right winger Ryder Rolston to prevent a breakaway from Michigan’s Rutger McGroarty, senior left winger Grant Silanoff ended the game at the other end, with the rebound of his shot on a 2-on-1 caroming in off a sliding Edwards.

The victory was a much-needed one for the Irish. Before Saturday, they had lost three straight in regulation and had not won a game since Oct. 28. For most of the year, Notre Dame has not looked like the NCAA Tournament-caliber team they were last season. Now, this Irish squad knows they can skate with some of the best college hockey has to offer. That type of confidence boost could mean far more to their season than an already impressive victory over the talented Wolverines.

Contact Tom Zwiller at tzwiller@hcc-nd.edu and Andrew McGuinness at amcguinn@nd.edu.

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Irish fall to Spartans 2-1 in second home match against former Irish goaltender

After beating MSU 5-0, Notre Dame faced the Spartans again on Saturday, with the puck drop at 6:05 p.m. Early on, it felt like Michigan State was the more aggressive of the two teams, forcing turnovers with a forecheck that the Irish did not seem ready for.

The Spartans lit the lamp first by using physical play to generate a turnover, with MSU left winger Jagger Joshua applying pressure to winger Ryder Rolston, who made a bad pass out of the zone (likely intended for Nick Leivermann) that the Spartans picked up.     

State defender Nash Nienhuis held the puck while the Spartans cleared the zone before getting the puck to Karsen Dorwart, who put the puck on net. ND goaltender Ryan Bischel made the save, but the rebound was loose and fell to Joshua, who found twine.

After the goal, both teams went back and forth with the Spartans still being the more aggressive offense, outshooting ND 2-1 early on.

The Spartans’ assistant captain, defensemen Cole Krygier, gave the Irish an opportunity to get back into the game when he committed a boarding penalty. However, the Irish were ultimately unable to do anything with it. Krygier was not done yet, as he committed a dirty hit from behind, which turned into a five-minute major with just a little over three and a half minutes left in the period, putting the Irish up for the rest of the first.

That advantage was nullified after graduate student forward Chayse Primeau committed a holding penalty with just over a minute left in the period. After the end of one, the Spartans lead by one.

After both teams killed off their penalties, ND seemed to gain some momentum from the previous night back, even able to force turnovers. With just three minutes lapsed in the second period, MSU forward Tiernan Shoudy was called for a hooking penalty. This time, the Irish power-play unit seemed under more control, as the Irish were able to generate strong chances from the points, even getting their rebounds. Though they had a strong showing, the Spartans killed off the penalty.

When graduate student defenseman Chase Blackmun was called for an interference call, the Irish continued their special team’s momentum, clearing the puck from their zone and forcing the Spartans to regroup multiple times.

Late in the second, junior defenseman Zach Plucinski drove into the right corner of the Spartan zone, and as he turned toward the net, Leivermann caught his eye, completely wide open from the point. Plucinski made the pass across the zone and Leiverman was able to bury the shot, tying the game 1-1.

After a scoreless third period and overtime, the game went to a shootout. In the first round, Leivermann and MSU’s Tanner Kelly made their shot attempts. In the second round, graduate student forward Jackson Pierson failed to convert his, while Dorwart was able to put MSU up 2-1. The game came down to Rolston,, who was denied by MSU netminder Dylan St. Cyr — the first star of the game.

After the opening weekend of conference play, the Irish sit 4-2-2, with a conference record of 1-0-0-1. Though the Irish split the weekend with the Spartans, they still came away with four points, which is good enough for third in the Big 10, behind Ohio State (nine) and Penn State (six).

Notre Dame hits the road next weekend, where they will continue conference play in Minnesota against the Golden Gophers, who are currently fourth with a 1-1-0-0 conference record and a 5-3 record overall.

The puck drops at 7:00 p.m. central on Oct. 4 and 5.

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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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Irish prepare to meet Spartans in Big Ten opener

Throughout the first month of the season, Fighting Irish hockey has become well-acquainted with The Great Lakes State. Having already squared off with Northern Michigan and Western Michigan, Notre Dame now turns its attention to the Michigan State Spartans. This weekend’s series in South Bend will usher in Big Ten action, marking the first of twelve series on both teams’ conference slates. The matchup will also serve as a crucial segue for the 12th-ranked Irish, whose seven games to follow are against teams rated above them.

Michigan State: From the Ground Up

After losing 15 out of 16 games to end the 2021-22 season, the Spartans are off to a promising start. Under head coach Adam Nightingale, they enter with a 4-2-0 record — all against unranked opponents. The Spartans split a home-and-away series with Bowling Green to open the campaign, then split with UMass-Lowell and swept Long Island on home ice. Last weekend, MSU dominated both ends of the two-game series, handling the Sharks 3-1 on Friday and 8-4 on Saturday. Defense was the story of game one, as the Spartans limited LIU to just 15 shots on goal. Saturday saw Michigan State crank out eight goals for the first time in nine years, pummeling the visitors with 50 shots on goal. Senior forward Jagger Joshua registered his first career hat trick, and the Spartan power play scored four times in seven opportunities. On the weekend, seven of MSU’s eleven goal-contributors were first-time scorers.

In a limited sample size, Michigan State’s offense is clicking. The Spartans, on average, are outshooting opponents 37.7 to 23.3, and outscoring them 3.3 to 2.5. They have racked up at least 39 shots on goal in four of six games, and have yet to allow more than 30 shots on goal in a game. MSU’s top forward line consists of two freshmen in addition to Joshua, but the newcomers have been magnificent in adjusting to the college game. Daniel Russell leads the team with nine points, while Karsen Dorwart has already amassed five assists. All six players on their second and third forward lines have over 60 games of collegiate experience, while MSU’s top three defensemen have combined to play 397 NCAA games. 

Between the pipes, graduate student Dylan St. Cyr is an undersized, yet effective goaltender. He stands at just 5-foot-8, but is coming off a spectacular season at Quinnipiac, in which he posted a .936 save percentage and 1.16 goals against average. St. Cyr is also no stranger to Compton Family Ice Arena. He started 30 games for the Fighting Irish between 2017 and 2021. This Spartans team is much improved from last year’s debacle, already producing noticeably better results in the non-conference schedule. Their combination of youthful skill and well-documented experience should serve them well in South Bend and beyond.

Notre Dame: A Need for Consistency

Notre Dame’s opponents between November 4-23 are ranked, on average, sixth in the country. The Irish (3-2-1) cannot expect to easily create rhythm against the big dogs, so the time is now for them to build some serious momentum. They started the year with uncertainty, as they lost handily to third-ranked Denver and needed a wild comeback to tie Air Force, but then rattled off three straight wins over Northern Michigan and Western Michigan. The thrill of Friday’s 2-0 defeat of the 17th-ranked Broncos quickly turned sour in a rough, 4-0 loss on Saturday. Western Michigan outshot the Irish 38-22 in game two, peppering the visitors with 29 shots on goal through two periods. Though Notre Dame has struggled on the road (0-2-1), they are still a perfect 3-0-0 in South Bend, favoring a resurgent effort this weekend.

One season has made quite the difference for the Irish penalty kill. After posting one of the best kill percentages in college hockey last year, Notre Dame has survived just 74.1 percent of opposing power plays. In the 4-0 loss to WMU, the Irish asked for trouble by making four trips to the penalty box before receiving a single man advantage. Junior forward Ryder Rolston’s three goals and six points lead the team, and his 28 shots are twice the amount of the next-highest shooter. Graduate student forward Chayse Primeau has arrived from Omaha on a mission, tallying five points and winning an impressive 59.3 percent of face-offs. Should their production carry into conference play, Notre Dame will be well-prepared to shine in big games.

On the defensive end, junior Drew Bavaro has stepped up with four assists, while sophomore Ryan Helliwell has been reliable with a team-best +5 plus-minus. Senior goaltender Ryan Bischel’s performance will make for an intriguing matchup in net. Bischel pitched a shutout last Friday and collected 31 saves in Saturday’s loss, bringing his season save percentage to a fine .913 mark. 

Series History and Statistics 

Notre Dame and Michigan State have appeared in 36 combined national tournaments and 13 Frozen Fours. Since Notre Dame joined the Big Ten prior to the 2017-18 season, the Irish lead the series 13-5 with four ties. However, Michigan State has tightened up the margin over the last three seasons, as Notre Dame is just 5-4-4 against the Spartans during that time frame. Last year, the teams split the South Bend leg before Notre Dame earned a sweep in East Lansing. After this weekend’s bout, the two will meet again at Munn Ice Arena on Feb. 3 and 4.

Contact Tyler Reidy at treidy3@nd.edu