MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Coach Jeff Jackson shuffled the deck before Notre Dame’s Big Ten series opener at second-place Minnesota Friday night, and sophomore right wing Colin Theisen aced a pair of goals in a 3-2 victory over the Golden Gophers in 3M Arena at Mariucci.
It was the first time this season the Irish rallied from a two-goal deficit.
“It was a matter of getting acclimated,” Jackson said of his team’s slow start on the Gophers’ Olympic-size (200 feet by 100 feet) ice sheet. “We’ve had a problem this year falling behind a bit and chasing the game. We’ve been offensively challenged at times.”
Before the first puck was even dropped, the Irish went from third to fifth place in the league standings after Michigan kept Ohio State from clinching the regular-season title with a 4-2 victory in Ann Arbor, and Penn State, next week’s Irish opponent at Compton, routed visiting Wisconsin, 8-2, in “Hockey” Valley.
Then the No. 16 Irish got off to a shaky start when the Gophers scored a pair of first-period goals by Brannon McManus (4:09) and Nathan Burke (12:00).
But the Irish (17-11-3, 10-9-2-2 Big Ten) turned some late first-period momentum into dominance over the final two periods to jump past Minnesota (13-15-4, 10-10-3-0 Big Ten), Michigan and Penn State into solo second place with 34 points, seven behind the Buckeyes. Notre Dame, which has a slim chance of catching Ohio State to defend its regular-season title, remained at No. 17 in the latest Pairwise Rankings.
“How do you figure out the Big Ten right now?” Jackson said afterward.
Theisen, skating on a new line centered by Cal Burke (normally a right wing) with Cam Morrison on left wing, scored his first goal on a power play at 2:47 of the second period. Then Burke’s freshman brother Cam, the center of the new fourth line with wings Pierce Crawford and Jack Jenkins, tied it at 17:43 of the middle period.
“It was good for us to score that first goal,” Jackson said. “(Theisen) has been playing well over the last month. He started showing some positive signs two weeks ago.”
Theisen’s game-winner, his 10th of the season, came at 8:01 off feeds from Morrison and Matt Hellickson.
Junior goaltender Cale Morris made 12 of his 24 saves in the final period, three in the final 90 seconds, to outduel Mat Robson, who had 28 stops for coach Bob Motzko’s Gophers before being pulled with 68 seconds remaining.
“A huge comeback after we faced some adversity early,” Theisen said. “We finished the first period pretty well. We just needed to stick to what we do. Now we need to get a good night’s rest because we have a quick turnaround.”
The Irish and Gophers complete the series Saturday afternoon at 5:30 p.m. EST. The game will be telecast on FOX Sports North, streamed on BTN2Go and FOX Sports and broadcast on WZOC-FM (94.3).
McManus got credited with Minnesota’s first goal at 4:09 after he lost control of the puck while cutting sharply in on Morris. The puck actually went into the net when Irish freshman defenseman Spencer Stastney tried to clear the puck away. Burke then jumped on a rebound of Sammy Walker’s shot that glanced off Cal Burke and one-timed the puck past Morris at 12:00.
The 2-0 deficit seemed to wake up the Irish, who rifled seven shots over the final eight minutes at Robson, who backstopped the Gophers to a sweep at Notre Dame last month. Robson stopped shots by Hellickson, Michael Graham, Cal Burke, Alex Steeves, Graham and Cal Burke again while also getting lucky when freshman defenseman Nate Clurman hit a post.
Theisen’s ninth of the season came just six seconds before Minnesota’s second holding-the-stick penalty, this to Blake McLaughlin, would have expired. Cal Burke got the puck back to the center point to defenseman Tory Dello, who fed an unguarded Theisen in the left faceoff circle.
The Irish tied it when they caught the Gophers on a line change. Jenkins set up left wing Crawford going in deep, and Crawford backhanded the puck in front where Cam Burke nudged it past Robson for his third of the season at 17:43.
The game-winner at 8:01 came after Morrison dug out the puck along the boards and fed it into the mid-slot to Theisen, who wasted no time putting it behind Robson.
NOTRE DAME 3, MINNESOTA 2
3M Arena at Mariucci, Minneapolis, Minn.
First Period—Scoring: 1. Minnesota, Brannon McManus 10 (Tommy Novak, Robbie Stucker) 4:09 (even); 2. Minnesota, Nathan Burke 6 (Sammy Walker, Blake McLaughlin) 12:00 (even). Penalties: Notre Dame 2-4, Minnesota 1-2.
Second Period—Scoring: 3. Notre Dame, Colin Theisen 9 (Tory Dello, Cal Burke) 2:47 (ppg); 4. Notre Dame, Cam Burke 3 (Pierce Crawford, Jack Jenkins) 17:43 (even). Penalties (total): Notre Dame 0-0 (2-4), Minnesota 2-4 (3-6).
Third Period—Scoring: 5. Notre Dame, Colin Theisen 10 (Cam Morrison, Matt Hellickson) 8:01 (even). Penalties (total): Notre Dame 1-2 (3-6), Minnesota 0-0 (3-6).
Power-play opportunities—Notre Dame 1 of 3, Minnesota 0 of 3.
Shots on goal—Notre Dame 8-14-9—31, Minnesota 6-8-12—26.
Goalie saves—Notre Dame, Cale Morris 4-8-12—24, Minnesota, Mat Robson 8-12-8—28.
A—8,330. Time—2:12. Records—Notre Dame 17-11-3 (10-9-2-2 Big Ten for 34 points), Minnesota 13-15-4 (10-10-3-0 Big Ten for 33 points).
Overall: Ohio State 19-8-4 (97-69), Notre Dame 17-11-3 (93-73), Michigan 13-12-6 (97-95), Minnesota 13-15-4 (98-99), Penn State 18-11-2 (147-112), Michigan State 11-16-5 (95-112), Wisconsin 10-16-5 (88-107).
Friday, Feb. 22
Notre Dame 3, Minnesota 2
Michigan 4, Ohio State 2
Penn State 8, Wisconsin 2
Saturday, Feb. 23
Notre Dame at Minnesota, 5:30 p.m. (FSN)
Ohio State at Michigan, 6 p.m. (Big Ten)
Wisconsin at Penn State, 7 p.m.
Friday, March 1
Michigan State at Ohio State, 6:30 p.m. (Big Ten)
Penn State at Notre Dame, 7:05 p.m. (NBCSN)
Arizona State at Minnesota, 8 p.m. (FSN)
Michigan at Wisconsin, 9 p.m. (Big Ten)
Saturday, March 2
Michigan State at Ohio State, 5 p.m.
Penn State at Notre Dame, 7:05 p.m. (NBCSN/SNY)
Arizona State at Minnesota, 8 p.m. (FSN+)
Michigan at Wisconsin, 9 p.m. (Big Ten)
END OF REGULAR SEASON