Third-period rally falls short as Notre Dame hockey team loses to U.S. Under-18 team

By John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent
Notre Dame's Solag Bakich, right, in a game against Minnesota last season. Bakich scored two goals in the Irish loss to the U.S. Under-18 team Sunday.

SOUTH BEND – The Notre Dame hockey band and a nice Sunday afternoon crowd returned noise to the Compton Family Ice Arena which sat mostly empty and silent during the COVID-19 pandemic of the 2020-21 hockey season.

It took two periods for Jeff Jackson’s Fighting Irish to shake off the rust created by six months of inactivity against the United States National Team Development Program’s Under-18 team, which grabbed a three-goal lead after two periods and withstood a third-period Irish rally for a 4-3 exhibition victory.

Despite two goals by junior left wing Solag Bakich in the final 20 minutes during which the Irish had a 15-7 shot advantage, Notre Dame couldn’t overcome a 4-1 deficit after being outshot in the middle session 20-15.

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But there’s reason for optimism. Transfer goalie Matthew Galajda (Cornell), who surrendered two second-period goals after replacing returning junior starter Ryan Bischel, looked steady, and grad transfer defenseman Adam Karashik (Connecticut) legitimized being named a captain by Jackson with his steady play on the blueline. 

Next up for Notre Dame is its season opener Saturday at 6 p.m. on the Lefty Smith Rink against visiting Long Island.

Galajda had 14 saves while Bischel made 22 as they split the netminding chores. Freshman left wing Justin Janicke, skating on a line with brothers Graham and Landon Slaggert, had the other goal for Notre Dame.

Irish fans also got a look at three future players from the Under-18 team – center Logan Cooley, left wing Maddox Fleming and defenseman Tyler Duke. Cooley scored a second-period goal for the Under-18 team which also got goals from Isaac Howard, Cutter Gauthier and Jimmy Snuggerud. Goalie Tyler Muszelik turned aside 39 of Notre Dame’s 42 shots.

The Irish, limited to four hours of on-ice practice time in the preseason by NCAA regulations, looked sluggish in the first period and the Under-18 team, now 5-1 and coming off a 3-0 victory Saturday night in Plymouth, Michigan, against Michigan State, took advantage for a 2-1 lead after the first period. 

Howard finished off a 2-on-1 break to beat Bischel at 1:23, beating the Irish goalie high over his glove (left) side. Notre Dame tied it at 4:13 when Janicke took a feed on a line change from senior defenseman Spencer Stastney and wristed a 30-footer past Muszelik. 

But the Under-18 team regained the lead at 10:16 when Gauthier took a feed from Snuggerud after Irish defensemen Chase Blackmun and Nick Leivermann got their wires crossed on a loose puck to Bischel’s left.

Notre Dame’s speedy Max Ellis broke in on a semi-breakaway at 12:06 but was denied by the sprawling Muszelik’s right skate. The Irish did end up with a penalty on the play, a slashing call against Duke. But his future teammates could not convert.

Cooley made it 3-1 just 58 seconds after Galajda replaced Bischel between the pipes at 10:20 of the second period. Galajda looked to be screened on the shot which came from 20 feet out between the faceoff circles.

Outshot 20-15 in the second period, Notre Dame took three penalties in the middle frame and stopped the first two Under-18 power-play chances. The third infraction, however, was a tripping call against Trevor Janicke at 18:35.  Galajda looked like he had stopped Snuggerud’s quick wrister 13 seconds later. But the puck trickled into the net to give the Under-18 team a 4-1 lead going into the third period.

Bakich cut into that lead when the Irish worked the puck free from Muszelik at 7:11. Zach Plucinski and Cam Burke received assists on the goal. The Irish then got their second power-play chance in the game with McGroarty off for elbowing at 9:51. Stastney hit the post about a minute into the two-minute minor for Notre Dame’s best chance.

But Notre Dame kept up the pressure and Bakich added his second goal of the period with assists from Karashik and fellow grad transfer Jack Adams (Union) at 12:42 to make it a one-goal deficit.

The Irish would outshoot the Under-18 team 15-7 in the third period and had chances to tie it after Jackson called a timeout to pull Galajda at 18:27. But Muszelik and the Under-18 team escaped any further damage.

USNTDP UNDER-18 4, NOTRE DAME 3

At Lefty Smith Rink in Compton Family Ice Arena, South Bend

USNTDP Under-18 | 2 | 2 | 0—4

Notre Dame | 1 | 0 | 2—3

First Period—Scoring: 1. USNTDP, Isaac Howard (Devin Kaplan) EV 1:23. 2. Notre Dame, Justin Janicke (Spencer Stastney) EV 4:13. 3. USNTDP, Cutter Gauthier (Jimmy Snuggerud) EV 10:16. Penalties: USNTDP 1-2, Notre Dame 0-0.

Second Period—Scoring: 4. USNTDP, Logan Cooley (Rutger McGroarty) EV 11:18. 5. USNTDP, Jimmy Snuggerud (Isaac Howard, Seamus Casey) PP 18:48. Penalties (total): USNTDP 0-0 (1-2), Notre Dame 3-6 (3-6).

Third Period—Scoring: 6. Notre Dame, Solag Bakich (Zach Plucinski, Cam Burke) EV 7:11. 7. Notre Dame, Solag Bakich (Adam Karashik, Jack Adams) EV 12:42. Penalties (total): USNTDP 1-2 (2-4), Notre Dame 1-2 (4-8).

Shots on goal—USNTDP 40 (13-20-7), Notre Dame 42 (12-15-15). Goalie saves: USNTDP, Tyler Muszelik 39 (11-15-13), Notre Dame, Ryan Bischel 22 (11-11-x), Matthew Galajda 14 (x-7-7). Power-play opportunities: USNTDP 1 of 4, Notre Dame 0 of 2. Faceoffs won: USNTDP 10 (12-8-10), Notre Dame 35 (10-12-13). Blocked shots: USNTDP 17 (6-4-7), Notre Dame 13 (0-10-3). Referees: Colin Kronforst and Kevin Corbett. Linesmen: Michael Verdonck and Dan Cohen.