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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.