Hockey: No. 8 Notre Dame stunned by Ohio State 4-2 after almost two-week layoff

By John Fineran
Notre Dame's Jack Adams (22) collides with Ohio State's Will Riedell during the Notre Dame vs. Ohio State NCAA hockey game Friday, Dec. 3, 2021 at the Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend.

SOUTH BEND — Even with new football coach Marcus Freeman and his family in the house, No. 8 Notre Dame couldn’t find any answers against Freeman’s alma mater, Ohio State, in their Friday night’s Big Ten Hockey Conference game.

The No. 18 Buckeyes rallied from a 1-0 deficit after Freeman was introduced midway through the first period, scoring four unanswered goals, two of them on power plays, to end Notre Dame’s six-game winning streak with a 4-2 victory at the Lefty Smith Rink in the Compton Family Ice Arena.

► Photos: Football head coach Marcus Freeman introduced at hockey game

► Freeman: We are going to be 'the most competitive team Notre Dame has ever put on the field'

Playing for the first time since their Nov. 19-20 sweep (a pair of overtime victories) at then top-ranked Michigan, Notre Dame hockey coach Jeff Jackson’s worst fears came true. 

After losing a post-Thanksgiving home game with Boston College because of the Eagles’ COVID-19 concerns, Jackson wondered if his Irish (10-4 overall, 4-3-0 Big Ten for 10 points) might struggled against coach Steve Rohlik’s improved No. 18 Buckeyes (9-4-0, 5-2-0 for 15 points), who were picked to finish last in the seven-team Big Ten race.

The Irish did despite starting the game with a 10-2 edge in shots in the first 9:58. After that, Notre Dame and Ohio State were dead even in shots at 28 each, with the Irish outshooting the Buckeyes 36-28.

Notre Dame's Max Ellis (21) and Ohio State's Gustaf Westlund during the Notre Dame vs. Ohio State NCAA hockey game Friday, Dec. 3, 2021 at the Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend.  Ellis is Notre Dame's leading scorer headed into weekend series against Niagara.

“When you’re playing well, you want to keep playing,” Jackson said. “It didn’t show up in the first 10 minutes” when the Irish took a 1-0 lead on Ryder Rolston’s fifth goal of the season at 7:41 of the first period.

“But it showed up after that,” Jackson continued. “We were not sharp. We were flat-footed, but they’re a good team.”

Kamil Sadlocha (12:34) and Travis Treloar (on the power play at 15:27) scored against graduate goalie Matthew Galajda, making his first appearance in three weeks, in the first period.

“Matthew hasn’t played in three weeks (since a 2-0 shutout of Wisconsin Nov. 13),” added Jackson, whose team played without junior center Solag Bakich, who was ill and unavailable. The Irish coach had to adjust his lines and penalty-kill unit because of Bakich’s absence, and it showed.

Notre Dame's Jesse Lansdell (14) and Ohio State's Jakub Dobes fight for a loose puck during the Notre Dame vs. Ohio State NCAA hockey game Friday, Dec. 3, 2021 at the Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend.

Then Ohio State got second-period goals from Georgii Merkulov (12:16) and Will Riedell (on the power play at 15:54) to grab a 4-1 lead after two periods. Despite being outshot 13-7 in the final period, Ohio State’s 6-foot-4 freshman goalie Jacob Dobeš didn’t surrender a goal until Max Ellis scored his team-high 11th with 1:18 remaining in regulation.

OHIO STATE 4, NOTRE DAME 2

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

Ohio State 2 | 2 | 0 — 4

Notre Dame 1 | 0 | 1 — 0 

First Period — Scoring: 1. Notre Dame, Ryder Rolston 5 (Graham Slaggert, Nick Leivermann) EV 7:41. 2. Ohio State, Kamil Sadlocha 4 (Cam Thiesing, Quinn Preston) EV 12:34. 3. Ohio State, Travis Treloar 5 (Jake Wise, Mason Lohrei) PP 15:27. Penalties: Ohio State 0-0, Notre Dame 1-2.

Second Period — Scoring: 4. Ohio State, Georgii Merkulov 4 (Cam Thiesing, Mason Lohrei) EV 12:16. 5. Ohio State, Will Riedell 2 (Joe Dunlap, Grant Gabriele) PP 15:54. Penalties (total): Ohio State 1-2 (1-2), Notre Dame 3-6 (4-8).

Third Period—Scoring: 6. Notre Dame, Max Ellis 11 (Landon Slaggert, Nick Leivermann) EX 18:42. Penalties (total): Ohio State 1-2 (2-4), Notre Dame 1-2 (5-10).

Shots on goal: Ohio State 28 (8-13-7), Notre Dame 36 (14-9-13). Goalie saves: Ohio State, Jakub Dobeš 34 (13-9-12), Notre Dame, Matthew Galajda 24 (6-11-7).

Power-play opportunities: Ohio State 2 of 5, Notre Dame 0 of 2. Faceoffs won: Ohio State 28 (16-9-3), Notre Dame 34 (13-8-13). Blocked shots: Ohio State 17 (6-4-7), Notre Dame 12 (3-6-3).

Referees: Sean Fernandez and David Marcotte. Linesmen: Bill Hancock and Jonathan Sladek. Attendance: 4,343 (5,022).

Records: Ohio State 9-4-0 (5-2-0 Big Ten 15 points), Notre Dame 10-4-0 (4-3-0 Big Ten 10 points).