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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+.

Contact Ryan Murphy at rmurph22@nd.edu.

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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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Notre Dame to meet No. 3 Michigan on the ice

Notre Dame hockey and its November gauntlet will return to Compton Family Ice Arena this weekend. The third-ranked Michigan Wolverines, the reigning Big Ten champions, await. The Irish have taken eight of the last ten regular-season meetings with the Wolverines, but Michigan defeated Notre Dame in last season’s conference semifinals. 

This will be a crucial early-season series for the Irish, who check in at 4-4-2 and 1-2-1 in Big Ten play. They slipped six spots to No. 18 in the USCHO poll after a lopsided sweep at the hands of top-ranked Minnesota. The Golden Gophers dished out 4-1 and 3-0 defeats, outshooting Notre Dame 85-46 in the process. To make matters worse, the Irish totaled 29 penalty minutes across the two games, putting themselves behind the eight ball repeatedly against an elite opponent.

High-scoring Michigan offense poses challenge

Offensive consistency and man-down situations have been Notre Dame’s primary issues through the opening month, and both have contributed heavily to the team’s active three-game winless streak. Junior Ryder Rolston continues to lead the Irish in goals (4) and points (9), but he was stymied over the weekend. On the other hand, senior goaltender Ryan Bischel was a bright spot, making 45 saves on Friday night and lifting his season save percentage to an impressive .932.

The Wolverines, coached by Michigan alum Brandon Naurato, have scored their way to an 8-2-0 record. Michigan has potted five or more goals in six games already, including a 9-2 rout of No. 14 Boston University on October 14. They also notched back-to-back five-goal efforts against No. 17 Western Michigan two weekends ago. The offense has cooled off a bit recently, posting less than 30 shots on goal in three straight games.

Last weekend, Michigan earned a split with No. 8 Penn State, falling 3-0 on Friday but prevailing 4-3 in overtime on Saturday. The Wolverines coughed up a three-goal third-period lead in game two, but freshman forward Adam Fantilli delivered the game-winner. While Notre Dame’s penalty killers have scuffled early on, Michigan’s power play has shined. The Wolverines have converted on 31% of their man advantage opportunities, cranking out as many as five power-play goals in a game this year.

Youth, star power lead Michigan offense

Michigan hockey is young but extremely skilled. As of last Friday, eight of their top nine forwards were freshmen or sophomores, even with star freshman forward Frank Nazar out of the lineup. The 13th overall pick of the Blackhawks could miss the remainder of the season due to a lower-body injury. Michigan’s crown jewel is Adam Fantilli, who is projected to be among the first three selected in next year’s draft. Fantilli made his collegiate debut before turning 17, yet he is setting the ice on fire for the Wolverines. After posting 74 points in 54 games for the USHL’s Chicago Steel last season, he leads college hockey with 20 points (9 goals, 11 assists) in 10 games. On Michigan’s top line, he is flanked by sophomores Dylan Duke and Mackie Samoskevich, who have posted a combined 25 points to open the year. 

NHL draft picks anchor Wolverine defense

On the back end, each of the Wolverines’ top four defensemen is an NHL draft pick. They are anchored by the pairing of junior Jacob Truscott and sophomore Luke Hughes, the New Jersey Devils’ 4th overall pick in last year’s entry draft. Junior goaltender Erik Portillo made the season’s first eight starts, posting a 7-1 record with a .905 save percentage. Fellow junior Noah West covered both starts against Penn State, however, stopping 78 out of 83 shots in the series split.

With Notre Dame football in Baltimore for the weekend, this top-20 matchup will play out in the traditional Friday-Saturday format. Game one will drop the puck at 7:30 p.m., while game two will commence at 6 p.m. Following the series, Michigan will return home to end November against No. 1 Minnesota and No. 13 Harvard.

Meanwhile, the Irish will not play another home game until Dec. 9, traveling to Ohio State, Boston University and Boston College to wrap up the month. Notre Dame and Michigan will meet again in Ann Arbor to close the regular season on Feb. 24 and 25.

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No. 12 Irish swept by No. 3 Minnesota

The No. 12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey team fell twice on the road this weekend at No. 3 Minnesota, 4-1 and 3-0.

In game one on Friday night, the Golden Gophers shelled the Fighting Irish net with 54 total shots on goal. After a scoreless first, Minnesota got on the board in the second period with a goal from Mason Nevers, who was left unguarded in front of the net on a centering pass. Seven minutes later, the Golden Gophers struck shorthanded, as sophomore Matthew Knies scored on a breakaway. With Minnesota, up 2-0 after the second, freshman Jimmy Snuggerud scored twice for the home squad in the third to put the game out of reach. The Irish finally found twine on a goal from sophomore forward Justin Janicke with just 46 seconds left in the game. It was the only goal Notre Dame would score this weekend.

The shot column was closer on Saturday night in game two, but the result remained the same. Minnesota got an even-strength goal from senior Jaxon Nelson and a power-play goal from Knies in the second period to go up 2-0 after two again. Then in the third, freshman Logan Cooley finished things off with an empty netter.

The line of Knies, Cooley and Snuggerud was dominant this weekend for Minnesota. The three former first-round picks combined for 5 goals and 9 total points, accounting for 50% of the Gophers’ points output this weekend.

Senior goaltender Justen Close started both games for Minnesota. He kicked out 44 of 45 shots to bring his save percentage to .919 this season. Senior Ryan Bischel started both games for Notre Dame as well, with freshman Jack Williams playing 7 minutes of time in relief of Bischel to end Friday night’s game. The Irish net-minders combined to allow 6 goals on a whopping 74 shots against, good for a .918 team save percentage this weekend.

Minnesota and Notre Dame will meet again when the Gophers travel to South Bend in mid-January. In the meantime, Minnesota will remain home this weekend to take on high-flying Penn State, who is off to a 9-1-0 start. The Irish return to Compton Family Ice Arena to host rival Michigan. The puck drops Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 6 p.m.

Contact Ryan Murphy at rmurph22@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

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Irish lose and draw to open hockey season

This weekend the Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey team traveled to Colorado to play a pair of local teams in the Ice Breaker Tournament. In Friday’s matchup, the Irish squared off against the Denver Pioneers, a program with a longstanding hockey tradition. The Pioneers are the defending national champions and entered the season ranked No. 1. It was a big test for the Irish at the very beginning of the year, playing a quality team on the road. 

In the first period, the Pioneers pressured the puck, outshooting the eleventh-ranked Irish 11-3. Senior goaltender Ryan Bischel kept the score clean until late in the period, when the Pioneers power play netted a goal. 12 minutes into the second period, the Pioneers again found the net on the power play. Then, Notre Dame went on the power play. The Irish passed the puck around the zone, eventually finding junior forward Ryder Rolston just beyond the faceoff circle for a one-time goal to cut the lead in half. Denver got another goal before the second period ended to make the score 3-1 at the second intermission.

In the third period, Notre Dame continued to fight. They went on the offensive, which eventually led to a wraparound goal by graduate student defenseman Chase Blackmun off of a rebound to make the score 3-2. With about 6 minutes left, Notre Dame stole the puck off of a Denver power play and had a breakaway chance to tie the game. Denver goaltender Magnus Chrona stepped up to the moment, making a key save. A few minutes later, the Pioneers added to their lead courtesy of a McKade Webster goal. After Notre Dame pulled their goalie the Pioneers added an empty-netter, making the final score a deceiving 5-2. The Irish showed in this game that they can compete with anyone in the country, but there’s room for improvement if they hope to hunt down a national championship this season. 

In the second game, Notre Dame squared off against the Air Force Academy, another team accustomed to the challenges that high altitude brings. Air Force received votes but ended up unranked in the first poll. Air Force got the first points on the board on a power play, and the Irish were unable to find the net in 11 shots in the first period. In the second period, Air Force netted two more, expanding the lead to three goals. The Irish finally found the net with 9:15 left to play in the second period, with junior defenseman Zach Plucinski hitting from the hash. Going into the third period, the Irish were staring down the barrel of an 0-2 start. However, they rescued the result via a last-gasp rally. 

Senior forward Solag Bakich scored off of a rebound six minutes into the period. His classmate, Trevor Janicke, scored soon after on a power play goal after an Air Force penalty to trim the deficit to one. Air Force responded to double the lead shortly after, but the Irish continued to battle. Sophomore defenseman Jake Boltmann scored with just over eight minutes left and Rolston scored the equalizer with 72 seconds left in the contest to bring it to overtime. No one scored in the overtime period and the Falcons won the shootout 2-1. Officially, the result goes down as a tie. 

The Irish challenged themselves early in the year, going on the road to play two quality teams in high altitude. Although the results were surely not what the Irish were hoping for, these two games provided points of emphasis for the coaching staff in the upcoming weeks before conference play. Bischel is still rounding into form after splitting time in the net for portions of last season. The Irish penalty kill was near the top of the rankings last season and if the Irish want to achieve the goals they have set for this year, they’ll have to get quality play from their special teams. Notre Dame is back in action on Friday and Sunday, playing Northern Michigan at Compton Family Ice Arena.

Contact Joseph Tunney at jtunney2@nd.edu.