Hockey: No. 8 Irish bounce back with convincing 5-1 hockey victory over Buckeyes

By John Fineran
Notre Dame's Ryder Rolston (12) checks Ohio State's Matt Cassidy (20) 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 — The hockey team that took the Lefty Smith Rink ice for No. 8 Notre Dame Saturday night in its 5-1 Big Ten Hockey Conference victory over Ohio State was more like the team coach Jeff Jackson thought he had coming away from a Nov. 19-20 sweep at No. 1 Michigan two weekends ago.

Until COVID-19 protocols — those belonging to Boston College, which had to postpone its trip here for a Thanksgiving Friday game — got in the way. The momentum the Irish had built through a six-game November winning streak — scoring balance from the four forward lines and solid play by the defense and goaltenders — was missing in Friday’s 4-2 loss to the Buckeyes.

► More:Hockey: Max Ellis and Irish hockey team getting their fill and enjoying it

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

But the Irish (11-4-0 overall, 5-3-0 Big Ten for 13 points) regained it Friday night before an announced sellout crowd of 5,117 watching in the Compton Family Ice Arena. Led by defenseman Nick Leivermann and Ryder Rolston, who each had a goal and an assist, solid special teams play (two power-play goals in three attempts while shutting down the Buckeyes on five of their own) and 24 saves from junior Ryan Bischel, Jackson couldn’t have been more pleased.

Well, he could have …

“I liked everything except the faceoffs (the Buckeyes won 34-26) and the penalties in the third period (the Irish had four),” Jackson said. “Everything else, I thought we played a good 60-minute hockey game.”

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.

Like Friday night, Notre Dame scored first against coach Steve Rohlik’s Buckeyes (9-5-0 overall, 5-3-0 Big Ten for 15 points) when Leivermann’s 10-footer from deep in the faceoff circle trickled past 6-foot-4 freshman goalie Jakub Dobeš at 4:08. But unlike Friday night, the Irish never lost the lead, building it to 2-0 at 5:51 on Rolston’s power-play wrister from the slot. 

Ohio State would cut the lead in half when Jaedon Leslie beat Bischel after teammate Dalton Messina won a faceoff to the Irish goalie’s left at 7:37. But the Irish took control in the second period on Landon Slagger’s breakaway effort at 10:27 (off a beautiful steal and feed from brother Graham) and Cam Burke’s goal-crease poke at 15:02.

Jesse Lansdell’s power-play goal at 4:00 of the third period ended the scoring and ended the night for Dobeš, who was replaced by Ryan Snowden. The two Buckeyes combined for 35 saves as Notre Dame outshot Ohio State in every period and 40-25 for the game, and that included the Irish killing off four straight power plays by limiting the Buckeyes to one shot at Bischel.

“We have to eliminate the unnecessary penalties especially when playing with the lead,” Jackson continued. “Ryan earned that opportunity (after backstopping the two overtime victories at Michigan with graduate Matthew Galajda unavailable). I thought Matt was a little rusty last night after being off for almost three weeks.”

A total of 12 Irish players scored points for the Irish, including scoring from each line and three of six defensemen.

“The one piece we need to get better at is faceoffs,” Jackson said, “and that will improve when we get (senior center) Jake Pivonka back.”

Pivonka, arguably the team’s best faceoff man, has been sidelined since August after surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon. But he has been skating with the team in recent weeks, and Jackson said he could be available on a limited basis when the Irish close out the first half of the season next Friday (7:30 p.m.) and Saturday (7 p.m.) against visiting Michigan State.

The Spartans trail fourth-place Notre Dame by a point (13-12) in the Big Ten standings after splitting a two-game series with Penn State thanks to a 4-3 victory Saturday night.

NOTRE DAME 5, OHIO STATE 1

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

Ohio State 1 | 0 | 0 — 1

Notre Dame 2 | 2 | 1 — 5

First Period—Scoring: 1. Notre Dame, Nick Leivermann 4 (Ryder Rolston, Grant Silianoff) EV 4:08. 2. Notre Dame, Ryder Rolston 6 (Nick Leivermann, Max Ellis) PP 5:51. 3. Ohio State, Jaedon Leslie 3 (Dalton Messina) EV 7:37. Penalties: Ohio State 2-4, Notre Dame 0-0.

Second Period—Scoring: 4. Notre Dame, Landon Slaggert 5 (Graham Slaggert) EV 10:27. 5. Notre Dame, Cam Burke 4 (Adam Karashik, Jake Boltmann) EV 15:02. Penalties (total): Ohio State 0-0 (2-4), Notre Dame 1-2 (1-2).

Third Period—Scoring: 6. Notre Dame, Jesse Lansdell 4 (Jack Adams, Hunter Strand) PP 4:00. Penalties (total): Ohio State 1-2 (3-6), Notre Dame 4-8 (5-10).

Shots on goal: Ohio State 25 (6-13-6), Notre Dame 40 (14-15-11). Goalie saves: Ohio State, Jakub Dobeš 27 (12-13-2) and Ryan Snowden (x-x-8), Notre Dame, Ryan Bischel 24 (5-13-6).

Power-play opportunities: Ohio State 0 of 5, Notre Dame 2 of 3. Faceoffs won: Ohio State 34 (9-13-12), Notre Dame 26 (8-9-9). Blocked shots: Ohio State 19 (10-3-6), Notre Dame 15 (3-5-7).

Referees: Sean Fernandez and David Marcotte. Linesmen: Bill Hancock and Jonathan Sladek. Attendance: 5,117 (5,022).

Records: Ohio State 9-5-0 (5-3-0 Big Ten for 15 points), Notre Dame 11-4-0 (5-3-0 Big Ten for 13 points).