SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame is finding its second go-around in the Big Ten Hockey Conference a little more difficult than its first.
Friday night, Jeff Jackson’s Irish outshot the Golden Gophers 43-22, but Minnesota got goals from Tommy Novak, Blake McLaughlin, Brannon McManius, Sammy Walker and Rem Pitlick in the second half of the game and junior goalie Mat Robson stopped 42 shots in a 5-1 victory before 4,008 at the Lefty Smith Rink in the Compton Family Ice Arena.
His teammates down 4-0, freshman defenseman Nick Leivermann scored his first career goal for Notre Dame at 16:50 of the third period. Cale Morris, who allowed the first four goals and was pulled after Pitlick’s goal at 19:49, made 17 saves.
The 12-7-1 Irish, who won the regular season and tournament titles during their first Big Ten season in 2017-18, lost their third straight league game and are 5-5-0-0 for 15 points. First-year coach Bob Motzko’s Gophers (8-8-4) moved to 18 points (5-3-3-0 Big Ten).
The two teams conclude their weekend series Saturday night at 7 p.m.
The Irish outshot the Golden Gophers 13-5 in a scoreless first period. Notre Dame’s No. 2 line of freshmen Jake Pivonka, Graham Slaggert and Alex Steeves was particularly impressive in the final minute in pressuring Robson, who turned aside one of Slaggert’s three shots on goal in the period in the final minute. The Gophers’ goalie, who hails from Mississauga, Ontario, made 13 stops.
Notre Dame also had 11 blocked shots in front of Morris, who was tested just five times. One of the blocks was by junior defenseman Andrew Peeke, who left the ice at 13:01 after taking Brent Gates’ hard shot in his right leg. The Irish captain limped to the dressing room but returned for the final minute.
Morris took Tyler Sheehy’s shot off his mask at the start of the second period and then covered on Pitlick, also in the first minute.
Robson was up to the task when he made saves on Morrison and Cal Burke in the third minute. Morris then turned aside shots by Jack Ramsay, the son of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team gold-medal defenseman Mike, and his linemate Garrett Wait in the fifth minute.
Robson made a sprawling glove save on a wrister by Cam Burke, Cal’s freshman brother, on a 3-on-2 break by Notre Dame at 11:28.
The Gophers finally broke the deadlock 36 seconds later when the teams were battling for a loose puck behind the Irish net. Suddenly it came out into the slot onto the stick of Novak, who fired it past a stunned Morris for a 1-0 lead. Brannon McManus and Sampo Ranta got assists.
Morris kept it a one-goal deficit with saves on shots by Pitlick and then Brent Gates Jr. before the Gophers’ Blake McLaughlin got the game’s first penalty for slashing at 15:18. The Irish got one shot at Robson, who stopped Cal Burke’s shot from 10 feet in the slot.
Robson finished the period with another 13 saves, and Morris stopped eight of the nine shots directed at him for a two-period total of 13.
Robson stopped Cal Burke and then Pivonka in the first 2:30 minutes and the Gophers rewarded him with two insurance goals.
The first, at 5:35, came off the stick of freshman McLaughlin, who fought off an Irish defenseman to get his stick on Nathan Burke’s centering pass and directed it past Morris into the far side of the net.
Minnesota made it 3-0 at 9:15 when McManus was left untended in the slot, took a feed from Ranta and fired it quickly between Morris’ pads.
Walker made it 4-0 at 15:57 when he deflected a shot past Morris.