Linemates Primeau and Rolston ignite the Notre Dame hockey offense as Bischel blanks MSU 5-0
SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson decided his 12th-ranked Fighting Irish needed to get a little more physical for their Big Ten season-opening hockey series with visiting Michigan State this weekend.
After beating visiting Western Michigan 2-0 last Friday and then losing 4-0 in Kalamazoo last Saturday, Jackson tweeked his lines and got immediate results.
New linemates Chayse Primeau and Ryder Rolston each scored a goal and added a pair of assists, while center Hunter Strand and defenseman Nick Leivermann each had a goal and an assist. With senior goaltender Ryan Bischel turning aside 30 shots for his second shutout of the season, Notre Dame opened Big Ten play with a dominating 5-0 victory over the Spartans before 4,130 at the Compton Family Ice Arena.
Justin Janicke had the opening goal for the Fighting Irish, who improved to 4-2-1 after outshooting coach Adam Nightingale’s 4-3-0 Spartans 33-30. The five goals all came against Rolston’s freshman roommate, former Notre Dame netminder Dylan St. Cyr, who had 28 saves in his return to Compton after graduating from Notre Dame in 2021 and spending last season at Quinnipiac. The 5-foot-8 St. Cyr is finishing off a graduate degree in coaching. The teams conclude their Big Ten series Saturday at 6 p.m.
“We haven’t been scoring 5-on-5 very consistently,” Jackson said. “We needed to see if we could come up with something different that might help us. We were playing too much perimeter hockey. We needed a little more muscle and physicality.”
Everything you need to know about Notre Dame hockey's weekend series vs. Michigan State
The most productive of the line changes was moving Rolston away from center Jackson Pierson and left wing Landon Slaggert onto a line with Primeau and left wing Solag Bakich. The 6-foot-3, 193-pound Primeau, whose father Keith played 15 seasons in the National Hockey League, and the speedy 6-foot-2, 185-pound junior Rolston, the son of Brian, who played for Jackson at Lake Superior State and won a Stanley Cup ring with the New Jersey Devils during a long NHL career, clicked from the start.
“It was a lot of fun seeing him (Rolston) blow by me and yelling for the puck,” chuckled Primeau, who now has two goals and six assists since joining the roster as a grad transfer from Nebraska-Omaha. “There was a lot of chemistry on each line.”
Ryan Bischel finally has spotlight as goaltender for No. 12 Irish hockey team
Rolston, who now has four goals and five assists this season, was enthused, too.
“Playing with Chase and Solag (Bakich, their left wing) opens up the ice for me,” Rolston said. “Teams like Michigan State are going to try to run you out of the building. And that’s what they tried to do tonight. The changes turned the page from last week and really helped us.”
Bakich was waiting to join Primeau and Rolston on the ice after the Irish killed off a penalty early. Instead, Justin Janicke got the Irish started at 8:28 after Primeau got the puck at mid-ice and carried into the MSU zone. Spartan forward Miroslav Mucha lost his stick backchecking Rolston, and Primeau slipped the puck to the streaking right wing. St. Cyr came out but Rolston slipped a nifty pass cross ice to the streaking Janicke who poked it into the vacated net at 8:28.
The Spartans almost tied it at 10:09 when freshman center Karsen Dorwart hit the pipe, and Michigan State overcame the Irish shot advantage with a 5-1 run heading into the final minutes.
But after Bischel made a save on Erike Middendorf, the puck came to Primeau, who led a 3-on-2 break out of the Irish defensive zone. Primeau slipped the puck to a streaking Rolston, who went around MSU defender David Gucciardi and beat St. Cyr high to his stick-side at 17:35 for the 2-0 lead the Irish took to the intermission.
The Irish started strong the second period and it resulted in another goal for a 3-0 lead that stood up through two periods. The goal came off the stick of Leivermann after the Irish kept pressure in the MSU zone. Strand fed the Irish captain at the deep slot and he fired the puck through a maze of players past St. Cyr at 2:28.
Bischel turned aside 11 Spartan shots for the second straight period, including five during Michigan State’s five-minute power play resulting at 11:00 when a review showed Irish defenseman Drew Bavaro made contact to the head. The Spartans got good opportunities, but Bischel and the Irish penalty-kill units, particularly defenseman Ryan Helliwell and forward Jesse Lansdell, came up strong.
Early in the third period with the Irish off to another strong start, the speed of Rolston and Primeau resulted in another Irish goal. With the teams skating four aside, Leivermann started the play clearing the puck to the speedy Rolston down his off wing. The junior carried into the zone and passed over to Primeau, who tipped the puck past St. Cyr at 3:29.
Then at 5:18, the Spartans’ Jagger Joshua went off for five minutes for contact to the head. Though the Irish pressured St. Cyr, they didn’t score until after the penalty had expired. Joshua was making his way back into action when Helliwell took a pass from Jesse Lansdell, skated down the slot and found a wide-open Strand, who beat St. Cyr from 10 feet at 10:20.
Leading 5-0, the Irish then made sure that Bischel got his second shutout of the season.
“Bisch is the heartbeat of our hockey team,” Rolston added. “He’s probably the most athletic kid I know. It’s insane the stuff he does.”
NOTRE DAME 5, MICHIGAN STATE 0
At Lefty Smith Rink in Compton Family Ice Arena, South Bend
Michigan State 0-0-0—0
Notre Dame 2-1-2—5
First Period—Scoring: 1. Notre Dame, Justin Janicke 2 (Ryder Rolston, Chayse Primeau) EV 8:28. 2. Notre Dame, Ryder Rolston 4 (Chayse Primeau) EV 17:35. Penalties: Michigan State 0-0, Notre Dame 1-2.
Second Period—Scoring: 3. Notre Dame, Nick Leivermann 2 (Hunter Strand, Chase Blackmun) EV 2:28. Penalties (total): Michigan State 2-4 (2-4), Notre Dame 3-9 (4-11).
Third Period—Scoring: 4. Notre Dame, Chayse Primeau 2 (Ryder Rolston, Nick Leivermann) EV 3:29. 5. Notre Dame, Hunter Strand 1 (Ryan Helliwell, Jesse Lansdell) EV 10:20. Penalties (total): Michigan State 2-7 (4-11), Notre Dame 2-4 (6-15).
Shots on goal: Michigan State 30 (11-11-8), Notre Dame 33 (10-9-14). Goalie saves: Michigan State, Dylan St. Cyr 28 (8-8-12), Notre Dame, Ryan Bischel 30 (11-11-8).
Power-play opportunities: Michigan State 0 of 4, Notre Dame 0 of 2. Faceoffs won: Michigan State 30 (8-9-13), Notre Dame 35 (17-6-12). Blocked shots: Michigan State 5 (3-2-0), Notre Dame 13 (3-5-5).
Referees: Barry Pochmara and Kevin Corbett. Linesmen: Jonathan Sladek and Mike Daltrey. Attendance: 4,130 (4,850).
Records: Michigan State 4-3-0, 0-1-0 Big Ten; Notre Dame 4-2-1, 1-0-0 Big Ten.