Hockey: Notre Dame rally comes up short as RIT skates to 3-2 overtime victory

By John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — It’s been almost 32 years since Notre Dame and Rochester Institute of Technology last met on a hockey rink, but the visiting Tigers still have Notre Dame’s number.

RIT’s Carter WIlkie stuffed a shot past Irish goalie Ryan Bischel 30 seconds into the 3-on-3 overtime period and the Tigers beat the Fighting Irish 3-2 at the Lefty Smith Rink in the Compton Family Ice Arena, ruining a Notre Dame comeback from a first-period 2-0 deficit.

The last time the teams met was Oct. 27, 1989 at the Joyce Center and RIT won 7-3.

Notre Dame's Max Ellis (21) tries to get away from RIT's Dimitri Mikrogiannakis (4) during the Notre Dame vs. RIT NCAA hockey game Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021 at the Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend.

This loss by No. 12/13 Notre Dame was the first of the season for coach Jeff Jackson’s Fighting Irish who opened the season with three victories. Coach Wayne Wilson’s unranked Tigers, members of the Atlantic Hockey Association, improved to 3-1-1 thanks to 32 saves by junior goalie Kolby Matthews, including one on his doorstep against Notre Dame’s Cal Burke 17 seconds into overtime.

Notre Dame outshot RIT 34-19, including 25-11 in the second and third periods when it rallied from being down 2-0 after first-period goals by the Tigers’ Will Calverley and Kobe Walker. Captain Graham Slaggert scored at 15:22 of the second period for Notre Dame and then defenseman Nick Leivermann tied it on an unassisted 4-on-3 power-play opportunity at 9:14 of the third period.

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Bischel finished with 16 saves for the Irish, who entertain the Tigers Friday night at 7:30. Tickets are available. The 525 Foundation, which fights against opioid misuse and abuse, will have an information table set up inside the main entrance of Compton before the game to allow fans to drop off expired or unneeded medical pills. 

The Irish tested Matthews five times in the first 5:48 of the game, but he answered each one with a save, and Notre Dame would only get three other shots on goal the first of the period as the Tigers took a 2-0 lead into the locker room after the first 20 minutes.

Notre Dame's Graham Slaggert (18) stops and sends ice flying near RIT's Kolby Matthews (40) during the Notre Dame vs. RIT NCAA hockey game Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021 at the Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend.

RIT scored on its third shot at Bischel in the first period when Nick Bruce came up with an Irish turnover in the faceoff circle to the Irish goalie’s right. Bruce quickly passed into the slot to an unguarded Calverley, whose shot from 15 feet beat Bischel high to his glove side at 13:12.

Cam Burke, whose two goals, the last in overtime, beat Michigan Tech 2-1 in overtime last Friday in Houghton, Michigan, beat Matthews but not the right post at 16:04. 

Then a little more than a minute later, another Irish turnover allowed Walker to skate around the net uncontested and beat Bischel in close over his glove at 17:11 for a 2-0 lead. Calverley got credited with an assist.

The Irish cut the lead in half after coming on late in the second period. Notre Dame got some momentum killing off a tripping penalty call against Jake Boltmann at 13:06. Penalty-killing forwards Burke and Ryder Rolston had a 2-on-1 break early, and then Burke skated in close but decided to pass to Rolston, whose shot went wide just after the penalty ended.

RIT's Gianfranco Cassaro (10) punches Notre Dame's Solag Bakich (25) during the Notre Dame vs. RIT NCAA hockey game Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021 at the Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend.

But RIT then turned the puck over at mid-ice and Rolston found Graham Slaggert unguarded going into the offensive zone. Slaggert wristed a shot off Matthews’ left shoulder into the net at 15:22. Grant Silianoff and Landon Slaggert had shots late, but both went wide of the net, allowing RIT to take a 2-1 lead to the locker room after two periods.

The Irish kept their momentum early in the third period, pressuring Matthews, who made a save on Solag Bakich’s stuff shot at 7:16. Bakich and defenseman Gianfranco Cassaro then were sent off for roughing penalties after play stopped.

But the resulting 4-on-4 didn’t last long. Landon Slaggert broke in for a semi-breakaway and was hooked by defenseman Spencer Berry, giving the Irish a 4-on-3 power play at 8:31. 

RIT defenseman Dan Willett took a Max Ellis shot in the leg and couldn’t get up as the puck went to neutral ice. Leivermann picked it up there and skated in past the now limping Willett and beat Matthews high over his stick at 9:14 for his third goal of the season.

RIT's Jake Joffe (9) and Notre Dame's Hunter Strand (11) fight for a loose puck during the Notre Dame vs. RIT NCAA hockey game Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021 at the Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend.

The Irish got a gift power play at 15:48 when RIT had too many men on the ice, but Notre Dame had three shots blocked. So the game went into overtime.

Notre Dame had an initial big scoring attempt early in the 3-on-3 when the speedy Ellis fed Burke at the doorstep, but Matthews made the save 17 seconds into the five-minute overtime period. On the ensuing rush back down ice, the Tigers won it when Aiden Hansen-Bukata chased down a clearing pass by Andrew Rinaldi and fed Wilkie, who put the game-winner past Bischel 13 seconds later.

RIT 3, NOTRE DAME 2 (OT)

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

RIT  2 | 0 | 0 | 1 — 3

Notre Dame  0 | 1 | 1 |0 — 2 

First Period — Scoring: 1. RIT, Will Calverley 4 (Nick Bruce) EV 13:12. 2. RIT, Kobe Walker 1 (Will Calverley) EV 17:11. Penalties: RIT 1-2, Notre Dame 1-2.

Second Period—Scoring: 3. Notre Dame, Graham Slaggert 2 (Ryder Rolston, Adam Karashik) EV 15:22. Penalties (total): RIT 0-0 (1-2), Notre Dame 1-2 (2-4).

Third Period—Scoring: 4. Notre Dame, Nick Leivermann 3 (unassisted) PPG 9:14. Penalties (total): RIT 3-6 (4-8), Notre Dame 2-4 (4-8).

Overtime—Scoring: 5. RIT, Carter WIlkie 2 (Aiden Hansen-Bukata, Andrew Rinaldi) EV 0:30. Penalties (total): RIT 0-0 (4-8), Notre Dame 0-0 (4-8).

Shots on goal: RIT 19 (7-7-4-1), Notre Dame 34 (8-14-11-1). Goalie saves: RIT, Kolby Matthews 32 (8-13-10-1), Notre Dame, Ryan Bischel 15 (5-7-4-0). Power-play opportunities: RIT 0 of 3, Notre Dame 1 of 3. Faceoffs won: RIT 21 (5-6-10-0), Notre Dame 33 (13-11-8-1). Blocked shots: RIT 17 (7-3-7-0), Notre Dame 10 (4-4-2-0).

Records: RIT 3-1-1, Notre Dame 3-1-0. Attendance: 2,283 (5,022).