No. 10 Gophers start quickly in 5-1 hockey victory over No. 11 Irish

By John Fineran
ND Insider

SOUTH BEND —  Notre Dame’s No. 11 hockey team learned painfully Friday night that how it starts does matter, especially against a good opponent.

No. 10 Minnesota scored three times in the first 11:09, stunning coach Jeff Jackson’s Fighting Irish and the 4,711 watching at the Lefty Smith Rink in the Compton Family Ice Arena. Coach Bob Motzko’s Golden Gophers then put it in cruise control for a 5-1 Big Ten Conference victory.

“That’s been a tendency of ours,” said Jackson, whose team has now been outscored 22-21 in the first period by the opposition. Notre Dame is 65-33 in the second, third and overtime periods this season. “We don’t start well on Friday nights, and it just spiraled out of control.”

Notre Dame center Hunter Strand (11) attempts a shot on goal in the second period against Minnesota at the Compton Family Ice Arena Friday, Jan. 28, 2022, in South Bend.

The third-place Gophers (10-5-0 Big Ten for 30 points, 15-10 overall) won their first straight over the fourth-place Irish (9-6-0 Big Ten for 24 points, 17-8 overall) by scoring on three of their first five shots against starting goalie Matthew Galajda, who was pretty much left helpless by his error-prone teammates. 

Grant Cruikshank (6:05), Tristan Broz (8:40) and the first of two goals by Blake McLaughlin at 11:09 chased the grad-transfer goalie from Cornell, who made just two saves before giving way to junior Ryan Bischel, who allowed two goals the rest of the way while stopping 17 other Minnesota shots.

Notre Dame’s only goal of the night – a power-play tip-in by Trevor Janicke at 16:22 of the second period – was the only shot to elude Minnesota junior goalie Justen Close, who finished with a career-high 28 saves in his fifth start since replacing departed goalie Jack LaFontaine, who signed with the NHL Carolina Hurricanes after the Gophers’ Jan. 7-8 sweep at Michigan State. 

Notre Dame right wing Trevor Janicke (27) celebrates after  a second period goal against Minnesota at the Compton Family Ice Arena Friday, Jan. 28, 2022, in South Bend.

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Janicke, who redirected Chase Blackmun’s slapshot from the point that followed a pass from Spencer Stastney, came between second-period goals by Sammy Walker (0:37) and McLaughlin (19:25). 

“Most of the problems we had were self-inflicted,” Jackson said. “We gave up way too many odd-man rushes. They (the Gophers) defend well, but it was the result of not doing a good job with the puck at times in certain areas of the ice. There were a number of things – like overextending our forecheck. It was disappointing.”

It also didn’t help the Irish that they were playing without senior defenseman Nick Leivermann, No. 3 in scoring with six goals and 18 points, who has an undisclosed injury and was not expected to be available Saturday night when the teams conclude their two-game series.

“That’s a big loss,” Jackson said. “Our other guys just have to step up.”

Motzko was pleased with the effort of his team, which will lose the services of three players – junior center Ben Meyers, freshman left wing Matthew Knies and sophomore defenseman Brock Faber – to Team USA when the Winter Olympics start Feb. 9 in Beijing.

“All four lines were in on the offense,” Motzko said. “(We had) good transition, good team speed, good team defense. We had just one bad penalty-kill.”

The Irish went 1-for-4 on their power-play chances while their nation-leading penalty-kill units killed off three Gopher power plays.

Janicke’s goal, by the way, was Notre Dame’s first goal against Minnesota at the Smith Rink since a 2-1 loss to Minnesota on Feb. 15, 2020 a month before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. That goal was scored by then sophomore Leivermann at 8:01 of the second period. Janicke’s goal ended an Irish home scoreless string against the Gophers at 188 minutes and 23 seconds.

Minnesota’s current five-game winning streak against Notre Dame started with a pair of 3-0 shutouts by LaFontaine last Feb. 12 and 13 and now has continued with three losses this season, the first two Oct. 29 (4-1) and 30 (3-2) coming in Minneapolis.

“We have the ability to come back,” Jackson said. “We’ve just got to straighten some things out.”

MINNESOTA 5, NOTRE DAME 1

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

Minnesota     3-2-0—5

Notre Dame  0-1-0—1  

First Period—Scoring: 1. Minnesota, Grant Cruikshank 4 (Ryan Johnson, Jack Perbik) EV 6:05. 2. Minnesota, Tristan Broz 2 (Jackson LaCombe, Carl Fish) EV 8:40. 3. Minnesota, Blake McLaughlin 8 (Sammy Walker, Justen Close) EV 11:09. Penalties: Minnesota 1-2, Notre Dame 1-2.

Second Period—Scoring: 4. Minnesota, Sammy Walker 9 (Matthew Kmies, Chaz Lucius) EV 0:37. 5. Notre Dame, Trevor Janicke 9 (Chase Blackmun, Spencer Stastney) PP 16:24. 6. Minnesota, Blake McLaughlin 9 (Bryce Brodzinski, Jackson LaCombe) EV 19:24. Penalties (total): Minnesota 2-4 (3-6), Notre Dame 1-2 (2-4).

Third Period—Scoring: None. Penalties (total): Minnesota 2-4 (5-10), Notre Dame 1-2 (3-6).

Shots on goal: Minnesota 24 (9-11-4), Notre Dame 29 (7-12-10).

Goalie saves: Minnesota (28), Justen Close 28 (7-11-10); Notre Dame (19), Matthew Galajda 2 (2-x-x), Ryan Bischel 13 (4-9-4)

Power-play opportunities: Minnesota 0 of 2, Notre Dame 1 of 4.

Faceoffs won: Minnesota 20 (7-7-6), Notre Dame 28 (9-14-5).

Blocked shots: Minnesota 8 (4-2-2), Notre Dame 6 (2-1-3).

Referees: Jonathon Sitarski and Barry Pochmara. Linesmen: Justin Cornell and Mike Daltrey.

Attendance: 4,711 (5,022).

Records: Minnesota 15-10-0, 10-5-0 Big Ten for 30 points; Notre Dame 17-8-0, 9-6-0 Big Ten for 24 points.

BIG TEN STANDINGS

(Conference)

Pts, GP, W-L-T, SOW, OW-OL, GF-GA

Michigan 36, 17, 11-6-0, 0, 0-3, 62-43

Ohio State 34, 17, 10-5-2, 1, 0-1, 54-38

Minnesota 30, 15, 10-5-0, 0, 1-1, 51-36

Notre Dame 24, 15, 9-6-0, 0, 4-1, 43-39

Penn State 17, 17, 5-11-1, 0, 1-1, 50-62

Wisconsin 16, 17, 5-11-1, 0, 1-1, 39-61

Michigan State 14, 16, 5-11-0, 0, 1-0, 35-55

(Overall, W-L-T, .Pct, GF-GA)

Michigan 20-7-1, .732, 106-63; Ohio State 18-7-2, .704, 96-58; Minnesota 15-10-0, .600, 85-63; Notre Dame 17-8-0, .680, 86-55; Penn State 14-12-1, .537, 94-82; Wisconsin 8-16-3, .352, 55-89; Michigan State 11-14-1, .442, 59-75.

Friday, Jan. 28 schedule

Minnesota 5, Notre Dame 1

Michigan 5, Wisconsin 1

Ohio State 2, Penn State 2 (OT) (Penn State wins shootout, 2-1)

Saturday, Jan. 29 schedule

Minnesota at Notre Dame, 6 p.m.

Ohio State at Penn State, 7 p.m.

Michigan at Wisconsin, 9 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 2

U.S. Under-18 team at Michigan, 7 p.m.