Notre Dame skates past Northern Michigan in home hockey opener at the Compton

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 hockey coach Jeff Jackson’s faith in senior goaltender Ryan Bischel was repaid Friday night as the No. 13 Fighting Irish opened their home schedule with a 3-1 non-conference victory over No. 20 Northern Michigan before a sellout crowd of 5,122 at the Compton Family Ice Arena.

Jackson, a former goaltender himself for the late Ron Mason at Michigan State in the mid and late 1970s, expected the 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior Bischel to be his No. 1 goalie going into the season. But after surrendering three goals in a 5-5 tie at Air Force in the second night of the Ice Breaker Tournament last weekend, Jackson pulled Bischel and watched freshman Jack Williams finish up.

The Irish coach never hesitated in sending Bischel out against the CCHA-member Wildcats, who entered the game on a three-game winning streak with an explosive offense. The Medina, Minn., netminder was outstanding, finishing with 36 saves including 16 in the second period and 12 in the final period as Notre Dame’s early-season penalty problems continued. 

More:All you need to know about Notre Dame hockey's home opener this weekend vs. Northern Mich.

“That’s what I expected from him (Bischel) at the beginning (of fall camp),” said Jackson, who has had his share of outstanding goaltenders in his previous 17 seasons behind the Irish bench. “He had a good week of practice. We didn’t do a good job last week covering the back part of the net. When a goalie gets backdoored, his confidence starts to struggle. Tonight, we did a better. That was the confidence I had in him going into the season.”

Bischel came up big when the Irish began their trek to the penalty box in the second period. Notre Dame (1-1-1) finished with10 penalties for 31 minutes, nine of those penalties totaling 29 minutes coming in the final 40 minutes, including a five-minute major and game misconduct by Zach Plucinski early in the third. Bischel made four saves as the Irish killed off the major, but perhaps his best save of the night came when he gloved a shot by Northern Michigan captain AJ Vanderbeck when the Wildcats (3-2-0) were killing off their own late penalty at 17:54 of the third period.

“When we got back from Colorado, I focused on having a good week of practice,” Bischel said. “Coach preaches a lot that your confidence on the weekends comes from how you practice every day. I made sure I did that every day and that gave me confidence going into tonight.”

Grad center Chayse Primeau, a transfer from Omaha who scored his first goal of the season to get the Irish started, was impressed by his teammate between the pipes.

“The game got away from us a little bit, but Bisch stayed strong for us,” Primeau said. “He stood on his head on the PK (penalty kill). He was our best penalty-killer for sure tonight.”

Indeed, Bischel turned away all but one of the 17 shots the Wildcats threw at him during their six power plays. Only defenseman Simon Kjellberg wrist shot at 8:48 of the second period beat Bischel. Notre Dame, meanwhile, scored two first-period power-play goals of their own — by Primeau at 6:54 and Trevor Janicke at 8:34 — to grab a 2-0 lead. 

Then after Kjellberg’s goal, Notre Dame sophomore defenseman Ryan Helliwell provided the Irish their final two-goal advantage when he received a nifty cross-ice pass from 6-foot-6 grad right wing Jack Adams and beat Northern Michigan’s freshman goalie Beni Halasz at 18:22 of the second period. Halasz, who stopped 12 Irish first-period shots, made just 11 more saves in the final 40 minutes for 23 total.

Air Force forward Mason McCormick (13) falls to the ice while shooting on Notre Dame goaltender Ryan Bischel (30), who made the save during the first period of an NCAA college hockey game Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022, in Air Force Academy, Colo. (Christian Murdock/The Gazette via AP)

The Wildcats’ sophomore center Reilly Funk took two early penalties in the game and the Irish made him pay on each one. Funk was whistled for slashing at 5:31 and Primeau directed the puck home past Halasz after a nifty feed from Jesse Lansdell with Grant Silianoff also receiving an assist at 6:54.

Funk was whistled off again at 8:08, this time for elbowing, and it took Notre Dame just 26 seconds to make it 2-0. Junior right wing Ryder Rolston’s shot appeared to be going wide but Trevor Janicke was able to direct it past Halasz at 8:34.

Janicke’s sophomore brother Justin almost made it 3-0 later in the period but was denied on his breakaway by Halasz at 14:52. Northern appeared to have scored a power-play goal of their own at 16:52 of the first period, but Jackson requested a review and it showed the Wildcats to be offsides on the play.

“I thought we played really well early on,” Jackson said. “The old saying goes the worst lead in hockey is 2-0. I thought they elevated, and we did not, and we ended up turning the puck over and taking penalties. Fortunately, we got that big goal from Helliwell to make it a two-goal lead again. 

“They tried to goad us into taking penalties and we fell for that,” Jackson continued. “Their power play is extremely good – it has been up to this point. We have to have more discipline.”

The Irish and Wildcats conclude their series Sunday afternoon at 5 p.m.

Notre Dame 3, Northern Michigan 1

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

Northern Michigan010— 1
Notre Dame210— 3

Northern Michigan 0 | 1 | 0 —1  

Notre Dame 2 | 1 | 0 —3

First Period—Scoring: 1. Notre Dame, Chayse Primeau 1 (Grant Silianoff, Jesse Lansdell) PP 6:54. 2. Notre Dame, Trevor Janicke 2 (Ryder Rolston, Drew Bavaro) PP 8:34. Penalties: Northern Michigan 2-4, Notre Dame 1-2.

Second Period—Scoring: 3. Northern Michigan, Simon Kjellberg 1 (unassisted) PP 8:48. 4. Notre Dame, Ryan Helliwell 1 (Jack Adams) EV 18:22. Penalties (total): Northern Michigan 1-2 (3-6), Notre Dame 3-6 (4-8).

Third Period—Scoring: None. Penalties (total): Northern Michigan 4-8 (7-14), Notre Dame 6-23 (10-31).

Shots on goal: Northern Michigan 37 (8-17-12), Notre Dame 26 (14-5-7). Goalie saves: Northern Michigan, Beni Halasz 23 (12-4-7), Notre Dame, Ryan Bischel 36 (8-16-12).

Power-play opportunities: Northern Michigan 1 of 6, Notre Dame 2 of 4. Faceoffs won: Northern Michigan 36 (8-14-14), Notre Dame 29 (14-6-9). Blocked shots: Northern Michigan 10 (5-5-0), Notre Dame 17 (3-5-9).

Referees: Joseph Causone and Kenny Anderson. Linesmen: Justin Cornell and Riley Bowles. Attendance: 5,122 (4,850).

Records: Northern Michigan 3-2-0, Notre Dame 1-1-1.