Ryan Bischel finally has spotlight as goaltender for No. 12 Irish hockey team

John Fineran
Notre Dame goaltender Ryan Bischel, shown Oct. 21, 2021, had a shutout for the Irish on Sunday and added an assist.

SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame senior goaltender Ryan Bischel cannot believe how quickly his hockey career has unfolded. 

It seems like only yesterday that the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Bischel arrived on campus prior to the 2019-20 season hoping to follow in the skates of a bevy of outstanding goaltenders who have played for Jeff Jackson during his 18 seasons as Irish head coach.

“A blink of the eye,” said the Medina, Minn., native who mentored his first year under All-American Cale Morris, spent his sophomore year sharing playing time with highly-touted Dylan St. Cyr and then split time last season with graduate-transfer Matt Galajda, a two-time Mike Richter Goalie of the Year finalist at Cornell.

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Now Bischel is "the man" between the pipes for Jackson, who has coached Notre Dame to four Frozen Fours with the efforts of four outstanding goalies: Jordan Pearce (2008), Steven Summerhays (2011), Cal Petersen (2017) and Morris (2018). 

That litany of goaltenders is what attracted Bischel to Notre Dame after he de-committed from Clarkson University with the blessing of that school’s coaches, who gave him the telephone number of Paul Pooley, one of Jackson’s associate head coaches. 

“That was honestly part of my decision-making process — how coach Jackson has been able to develop such good goalies,” Bischel said. “Seeing the success those guys have had was certainly a draw for me. I knew Cal a little bit — he trains with the same goalie coach at I had back in Minneapolis (current New Jersey Devils assistant Dave Rogalski). Cale was back for ‘Pro Week’ this summer, and it was nice to hang out with him a little bit. And he was a great mentor to me my freshman year.”

Notre Dame's Ryan Bischel (30) reacts to the goal being tipped over him during the Notre Dame vs. RIT NCAA hockey game Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021 at the Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend.

After seeing limited time behind Morris his freshman year, Bischel shared duties with St. Cyr his sophomore season before a concussion limited him from the midway point on. Last year, Bischel and Galajda shared playing time until Galajda got hot late and played in the final 11 games of the season which ended with a 1-0 loss in the NCAA regional final at Albany, N.Y., to eventual NCAA runner-up Minnesota State.

Bischel has never been afraid to put in the work. After allowing 17 goals in his first game as a 10-year-old goalie — “that lit a fire in my butt,” he jokes now — Bischel went off to Catholic prep school Benilde-St. Margaret’s in Minnesota. Bischel then joined the Fargo Force of the United States Hockey League where he competed against goalies Matt Murray (who led Massachusetts to the 2021 national championship) and Strauss Mann (a former standout at Michigan).

After last season, Jackson and his staff wanted to see Bischel get stronger in the weight room with strength and conditioning coach Tony Rolinski. After Bischel and the Irish struggled in a 5-3 loss at Denver and 5-5 tie at Air Force in the season-opening Ice Breaker Tournament, Bischel and the Irish rebounded with 3-1 and 5-4 victories over Northern Michigan.

Then last weekend, Bischel picked up his third career shutout with 30 saves in a 2-0 Friday triumph over Western Michigan before stopping 34 shots and allowing three goals before the Broncos scored a 4-0 victory against a listless Irish offense in Kalamazoo.

“What we saw this past weekend was probably more of what I had anticipated coming into this season,” Jackson said. “When he’s consistent, you can really count on Ryan to make several big saves, and he also has the ability to not give up bad goals. That’s a good combination. He could be one of the top goalies in the country.”

MSU goalie Dylan St. Cyr protects the net against UMass-Lowell's Filip Fornaa Svensson Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022, at Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing.

And this weekend, Bischel will face another who will be a familiar face around these parts — the 5-foot-8, 168-pound St. Cyr, who is pursuing a graduate degree in coaching and playing for the Spartans, who are 4-2-0 under first-year coach Adam Nightingale.

“Dylan and I were really close when he played here and we’re still buddies,” Bischel said. “He is still dating a girl at Saint Mary’s, he was in town a couple of weeks ago and we had dinner.”

Ryan Bischel hopes to have the better appetite this weekend.