SOUTH BEND — Only stuffed animals and family members occupied some of the seats in the Compton Family Ice Arena Saturday night, and they had to be as pleased as Notre Dame hockey coach Jeff Jackson was after the 15th-ranked Fighting Irish played their most complete game of this COVID-19 season.
Redshirt senior Dylan St. Cyr stopped 20 shots for his third career shutout and the Irish got a goal and an assist from South Bend junior center Graham Slaggert as the Irish skated to a 3-0 Big Ten Conference victory over the No. 14 Ohio State Buckeyes.
Slaggert gave the Irish a 1-0 lead at 9:22 of the second period and then assisted on Alex Steeves’ insurance goal at 9:38 of the third period that came two minutes and five seconds after Michael Graham’s unassisted goal took the momentum out of the Buckeyes’ comeback hopes.
“That was a good 60-minute hockey game for us,” Jackson said. “Ohio State is a hard team to play against and I thought we did fairly well after we got acclimated to how they play. I was most happy that we did a good job in the third period and didn’t get comfortable with a two-goal lead. Getting that third goal was crucial.”
The victory moved Notre Dame (4-3-0, 3-2-0-0-0-0 Big Ten) ahead of idle Michigan into third place with nine points in the Big Ten standings behind undefeated Minnesota (24) and second-place Wisconsin (16). Michigan is fourth with eight points, one ahead of coach Steve Rohlik’s Buckeyes (2-5-0, 2-5-0-0-1-0 Big Ten). The teams complete their series Sunday afternoon at 5.
Jackson, a former netminder at Michigan State in the late 1970s, was pleased with the performance of St. Cyr, whose parents were professional goaltenders. Father Gerry played minor-league hockey, while mother Manon Rheaume once started an exhibition game for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992 and was the goalie for Canada’s 1998 Olympic team.
The 5-foot-8, 167-pound St. Cyr, who hails from Northville, Mich., sat out last season behind Cale Morris and freshman Ryan Bischel, who earlier this year won Big Ten First Star honors for backstopping the Irish to a sweep at Michigan. St. Cyr’s previous shutouts came against Alabama-Huntsville (4-0) his freshman season and against RPI as a sophomore (3-0).
“Dylan made some good saves in the third, especially in covering up some of the mistakes we had in our own end,” Jackson said. “These goalies are just getting into the feel after being off for eight months. Tonight was one of Dylan’s better efforts. He didn’t have to make great saves, but he was in control and that’s so important in not giving up rebounds. He was solid in his crease.”
The Irish were skating without freshman left wing Landon Slaggert who successfully made the U.S. Junior team for the upcoming World Championships in Edmonton starting Christmas Day against Russia, so Jackson juggled his forward lines and was happy with the consistency he saw. Slaggert, who had played on a line centered by junior brother Graham with right wing Trevor Janicke, was replaced by Steeves. Steeves’ place on a line with Graham and left wing Colin Theisen was taken by freshman Ryden Rolston.
The game, expected to be a defensive affair, started that way in the scoreless first period as the teams combined for eight shots on goal, five by the Irish. It was a sharp contrast to the first period of last week’s 5-4 Irish non-conference victory over Arizona State when the two teams combined for 36 shots on goal, 21 by the Irish.
Notre Dame had a 12-10 edge in shots in the second period but dominated the first 16 minutes during which it grabbed a 1-0 lead.
Defenseman Nick Leivermann, whose goal with 5.1 seconds left in the third period eight days ago was the game-winner against the Sun Devils, started the play when he found Janicke to Nappier’s right. The Ohio State goalie committed to Janicke, who quickly found an unguarded Graham Slaggert and slipped him a pass that Slaggert redirected into the net at 9:22.
But the Buckeyes found themselves in the final four minutes of the period and outshot the Irish 5-1 with the help of a power play when freshman defenseman Zach Plucinski went off for holding Collin Peters to prevent a shot on St. Cyr. The Irish goalie turned away shots by Quinn Preston and Layton Ahac to keep the Buckeyes scoreless after two periods.
St. Cyr made five saves in the first five minutes of the final period as the Buckeyes, with the help of the third power play, put on the pressure. The Irish penalty killers – Graham, Jesse Lansdell, Max Ellis and Solag Bakich and defensemen Spencer Stastney, Nate Clurman, Leivermann and Matt Hellickson – did their job and the Irish got momentum when center Jake Pivonka returned to the ice.
Graham later picked up a loose puck at center ice and skated in with teammates on a 3-on-2 break. But instead of setting up a teammate, Graham skated across the slot and fired a shot low to Nappier’s stick-side. The puck hit the far pipe and went in at 7:33 to make it 2-0 Irish.
Then a little more than two minutes later, Graham Slaggert won a draw to Nappier’s right – he was 10-5 on faceoffs for the game. Steeves corralled the puck as it rolled toward Nappier and beat the Ohio State goalie from his knees to make it 3-0 with 9:38 gone.
St. Cyr kept the shutout intact when he stopped Buckeye defenseman Evan McIntyre’s blast and then Tate Singleton’s rebound effort at 12:14. After that, the Irish kept the pressure on Nappier’s replacement Ryan Snowden and finished with a 28-20 edge in shots, dominating the final three minutes with the help of an Ohio State penalty.
NOTRE DAME 3, OHIO STATE 0
At Lefty Smith Rink/Compton Family Ice Arena, South Bend
Ohio State 0-0-0—0
Notre Dame 0-1-2—3
First Period—Scoring: None. Penalties: Ohio State 1-2, Notre Dame 1-2.
Second Period—Scoring: 1. Notre Dame, Graham Slaggert 2 (Trevor Janicke, Nick Leivermann) EV 9:22. Penalties (total): Ohio State 0-0 (1-2), Notre Dame 1-2 (2-4).
Third Period—Scoring: 2. Notre Dame, Michael Graham 1 (unassisted) EV 7:33. 3. Notre Dame, Alex Steeves 3 (Graham Slaggert) EV 9:38. Penalties (total): Ohio State 2-4 (3-6), Notre Dame 1-2 (3-6).
Power-play opportunities—Ohio State 0 of 3, Notre Dame 0 of 3.
Faceoffs won—Ohio State 25 (6-12-7), Notre Dame 25 (12-5-8).
Blocked shots—Ohio State 13 (4-5-4), Notre Dame 13 (3-6-4).
Shots on goal—Ohio State 20 (3-10-7), Notre Dame 28 (5-12-11).
Goalie saves—Ohio State, Tommy Nappier 19 (5-11-3) and Ryan Snowden 6 (0-0-6), Notre Dame, Dylan St. Cyr 20 (3-10-7).
Records—Ohio State 2-5-0 (2-5-0-0-1-0 Big Ten), Notre Dame 4-3-0 (3-2-0-0-0-0 Big Ten).
Referee—Anthony Czech and Barry Pochmara. Linesmen—Jonathan Sladek and Nick Huff.