No. 20 Irish Hockey splits series at No. 12/13 Ohio State

Despite its scoring woes, the No. 20 Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey team ground out a weekend split against the No. 12/13 Ohio State Buckeyes. After Ohio State won the Friday contest 5-2, the Irish bounced back with a 1-0 victory Saturday.

Ohio State wins Friday, 5-2

In Friday’s contest, Ohio State used three third-period goals to come away with a 5-2 win. 

After Ohio State got on the board four minutes into the game with a goal from Davis Burnside, the Irish were able to answer when senior forward Trevor Janicke found the back of the net on a one-timer with 44 seconds remaining in the first period. Graduate student defenseman Chase Blackmun set up the goal. 

The Irish then took the lead in the second period, as freshman forward Fin Williams scored from an unlikely angle near the goal line. It was the first career goal for the North Vancouver, BC, native, who dropped to a knee to celebrate.

Williams’ goal was a huge break for the Irish. The momentum continued to swing in Notre Dame’s direction minutes later when Ohio State’s Tyler Duke was whistled for slashing. With a chance to increase their lead to two on the power play, things were looking up for the Irish. 

The Buckeyes, though, had other plans. On the ensuing power play, Ohio State took a dagger to Notre Dame’s momentum. Not only did they have a successfully kill the penalty, but the Buckeyes added a shorthanded goal to boot. Defenseman Dominic Vidoli started the breakout himself, hopped up into the rush, and then finished off a beautiful give-and-go with Tate Singleton to tie the game at two.

In the third, Singleton would chip in with a goal of his own to put the Buckeyes up 3-2. Less than 90 seconds later, team scoring leader Jake Wise added a power-play insurance marker for Ohio State to make it 4-2. An empty net goal finished the night off in Columbus, with the home side coming out on top 5-2.

Irish find a way with 1-0 win Saturday

Back in the lineup after missing Friday’s game, graduate student forward Jack Adams scored 2 minutes and 33 seconds into the game Saturday night to provide the lone goal of the evening. Up 1-0 early, the Irish never looked back. Thanks to stellar defense and goaltending, they remain a perfect 4-0-0 when scoring the first goal.

Notre Dame received excellent goaltending from senior Ryan Bischel, who stopped all 37 shots he faced for his third shutout of the season. It was the fifth time this season Bischel has made 35 or more saves in a game. Bischel has started all 13 games for the Irish this year. And he may well have stolen his team a win on Saturday night.

That’s not to discredit the Irish skaters, who were also stout defensively in front of their goaltender. Notre Dame blocked 18 Buckeye shots, killed off three Ohio State power plays, and withstood a third-period barrage that saw Ohio State outshoot Notre Dame 19-3.

For Adams, the goal marked his first of the season. On his first shift of the game, Adams went straight to the front of the net as senior defenseman Nick Leivermann led the attack into the Ohio State defensive zone. The 6′ 6” Adams and a linemate, 6′ 4” freshman Niko Jovanovic, both set up shop outside the paint. Leivermann took a lap behind the Ohio State net and came out to the top of the far faceoff circle.

The offensively-minded Leivermann then smartly exposed the Ohio State defense with a cross-seam pass to his partner Blackmun. Blackmun hesitated before firing a shot to the front of the net. The rebound came loose, and Adams was able to use his large frame to grab the puck and sandwich it between the legs of Ohio State goaltender Jakub Dobes for the score.

Remarkably, Adams’ early goal proved to be the game-winner, his second career game-winning goal in a Notre Dame uniform.

Looking ahead

The weekend split keeps the Irish at .500 for the season, with a 6-6-2 overall record. In the Big Ten, Notre Dame is sixth with a 3-4-1 record in conference play.

Notre Dame will travel to Boston this Thanksgiving week to play against both the Boston University Terriers and Boston College Eagles. Wednesday, Notre Dame is playing at BU at 5 p.m. On Friday, they will travel to Chestnut Hill to play the Eagles at 4 p.m. Wednesday’s game will be available on ESPNU. Friday’s can be seen on ESPN+.

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‘We know we belong’: Leivermann confident in team ahead of regular season

Graduate student defender Nick Leivermann is prepared to lead the eighth-ranked Irish this season starting this Friday against Denver.

Leivermann has been an integral part of the Irish defense over the course of the last few seasons, and last season he recorded a team-leading 21 assists. 

Although Leivermann and the Irish lost to the United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP) U18 team in Sunday’s exhibition, he is confident in his team ahead of the start to the regular season.

“We feel really good heading into the season. We obviously don’t want to pay too much attention to the preseason rankings, but we know we belong probably in the top-five based on our year last year, and what we brought in this year, so we are excited,” Leivermann said.

Leivermann felt that Sunday’s game was a good opportunity to improve as a team and get some real game experience.

“It’s always good to get this game in early.” Leivermann said, “I think that’s why our coaches want to do it so that we can work some stuff out early.”

Leivermann was disappointed with the loss on Sunday night, but he thought Sunday was a great opportunity to get younger players some much needed playing time.

“Obviously you want to win that game, and losing to that team two years in a row is never fun,” Leivermann said. “Winning is the number one goal, but it’s also about getting new guys in and getting a feeling for what our team is going to be this year.”

The Irish are typically a defensive oriented team, but Leivermann was encouraged by the team’s movement of the puck on the offensive end on Sunday night.

“We moved the puck really well in the offensive zone, which is good to see. We are a team that is always trying to better ourselves on that end of the ice because normally we are more of a defensive type team.” Leivermann said.

Despite the positives from Sunday, the Irish surrendered some costly penalties that ultimately lost them the game. 

Leivermann felt that the Irish gave the U18 team too much space and time during their power plays on Sunday. 

“We just really weren’t intense enough tonight, and giving some of those skilled players too much time and space, that’s going to come and bite you,” Leivermann said.

Leivermann stressed the importance of taking less penalties in the future, and he knows that his team will improve on the penalty kill as the year goes on.

“The number one goal is obviously not to take penalties at all, and that’s going to benefit us a lot,” Leivermann said. “[Head] coach [Jeff Jackson] has always been really dialed in on the penalty kill and that’s why we had the best PK in the country last year. So, it’s just taking some tidbits of what we did last year, but you also have to change things because we have new personnel on the backhand.”

Leivermann is the sole captain on the team this year, and he has enjoyed being a mentor to his younger teammates.

“Being a fifth year, you are a little bit older, and it has been fun taking in some of those younger guys like [freshman defenseman Michael] Mastrodomenico and [freshman forward] Fin Williams. They’re really good kids,” Leivermann said. “It’s obviously not just me; our leadership stems from our juniors, seniors and four or five grads, and everyone of those guys can be a leader and a captain on the team.”

Mastrodomenico and Williams are joined by two other freshmen in forward Niko Jovanovic and goaltender Jack Williams, and Leivermann feels like all four have made great strides so far.

“It’s obviously a little bit difficult being a freshman in college hockey, but they’re finding their way and I think all four have improved on a day-to-day basis,” Leivermann said.

Jackson is confident in Leivermann and the rest of the leaders on his team ahead of the season.

“I like our leadership group.” Jackson said, “There was some adversity coming into today’s game. For the most part, I thought we handled it pretty well. I have to rely on them in the locker room because I am not always in there.”

Leivermann believes the Irish have grown significantly as a team since the summer.

“We have grown quite a bit,” Leivermann said. “We have obviously been together now since early June. Just as a group, we are really tight knit and we have really good leadership.”

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