No. 3 Minnesota overwhelms No. 12 Notre Dame in 4-1 Big Ten hockey victory

Tribune Staff Report

MINNEAPOLIS — With 7:10 left in Friday’s Big Ten hockey game between the third-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers and his No. 12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, coach Jeff Jackson decided it was time to give his best player some much-needed relief.

So senior goaltender Ryan Bischel, who grew up in the Minneapolis western suburb of Medina, took a seat on the Irish bench in front of family and friends after making a career-high 45 saves. The Big Ten’s Third Star of the Week after last weekend watched as freshman backup Jack Williams finished with five of his own as the deep and talented Gophers outshot Notre Dame 54-25 and skated away with a 4-1 victory before 7,774 in the 3M Arena at Mariucci.

Shot-blocker Jake Boltmann eager to lead No. 12 Irish against home-state Gophers

Everything you need to know about Notre Dame hockey's weekend series vs. Minnesota

“That’s two weeks in a row we’ve given up a lot of shots,” Jackson said afterward. A week ago, Notre Dame was outshot 42-40 by Michigan State in a 1-1 overtime tie at home as Bischel finished with a career-high 41 saves in his showdown with former Irish netminder Dylan St. Cyr, now a graduate between the pipes for the Spartans.

“A large part of it is we’re not managing the puck very well,” Jackson continued. “They (the Gophers) are going to capitalize any time you turn pucks over.”

Bischel was on his game from the start, making 13 saves in a scoreless first period (including stopping a penalty shot by freshman right wing Jimmy Snuggerud) and three more in the second period as Notre Dame closed its shot deficit to one, 16-15, in the first seven minutes of the second period.

But then Irish defenseman Zach Plucinski lost the puck to Minnesota’s Jaxon Nelson behind the Irish net on the Olympic-size (200 feet by 100 feet) ice sheet. Nelson backhanded the puck out in front to a wide-open Mason Nevers, who put a quick shot behind Bischel at 7:30 before Irish defenseman Jake Boltmann could get to him.

The Irish (4-3-2 overall, 1-1-1-0-0-0 Big Ten for four points) would be chasing the Gophers (6-3-0 overall, 2-1-0-0-0-0 Big Ten for six points) the rest of the way.

Minnesota sophomore left wing Matthew Knies, who played on the U.S. Olympic Team last winter, made it 2-0 at 12:50 on a breakaway with the Gophers killing off a penalty.

“Bischel played as well as he could; he certainly wasn’t at fault,” Jackson said of his goalie, who had 28 saves after two periods and then turned aside the first 10 shots he saw in the third period before allowing the first of two Snuggerud goals at 5:59. It came after Knies took the puck away from defenseman Ryan Helliwell behind the Irish net. Knies would finish with a goal and two assists.

Snuggerud, who skates on the line with Knies and freshman center Logan Cooley, a first-round NHL Draft choice (of Phoenix) from Pittsburgh who de-committed from Notre Dame last winter, made it 4-0 when he scored on a 5-on-3 Gophers power-play advantage at 12:50, ending Bischel’s night.  

Besides Bischel’s effort, the lone Irish highlight was sophomore left wing Justin Janicke’s third goal of the season with 46 seconds left that ruined the shutout bid of Minnesota senior goalie Justen Close, who turned away 24 Irish shots. Defensemen Plucinski and Nick Leivermann, the Irish captain, received assists.

“We knew they were a talented team, no question,” Jackson said. “But we needed to be better. We gave them too many good looks. Right now, it’s about straightening out our 5-on-5 game foremost.”

Notre Dame and Minnesota conclude their two-game series Saturday night at 8.

MINNESOTA 4, NOTRE DAME 1

At 3M Arena at Mariucci, Minneapolis, Minn.

Notre Dame  0-0-1—1 

Minnesota     0-2-2—4        

First Period—Scoring: None. Penalties: Notre Dame 1-2, Minnesota 1-2.

Second Period—Scoring: 1. Minnesota, Mason Nevers 4 (Jaxon Nelson, Connor Kurth) EV 7:30. 2. Minnesota, Matthew Knies 8 (unassisted) SH 14:09. Penalties (total): Notre Dame 0-0 (1-2), Minnesota 1-2 (2-4).

Third Period—Scoring: 3. Minnesota, Jimmy Snuggerud 8 (Matthew Knies, Jackson LaCombe) EV 5:59. 4. Minnesota, Jimmy Snuggerud 9 (Matthew Knies, Logan Cooley) PP 12:50. 5. Notre Dame, Justin Janicke 3 (Zach Plucinski, Nick Leivermann) EV 19:14. Penalties (total): Notre Dame 3-6 (4-8), Minnesota 2-4 (4-8).

Shots on goal: Notre Dame 25 (10-7-8), Minnesota 54 (13-17-24). Goalie saves: Notre Dame (50), Ryan Bischel 45 (13-15-17) and Jack Williams 5 (DNP-DNP-5); Minnesota, Justen Close 24 (10-7-7).

Power-play opportunities: Notre Dame 0 of 3, Minnesota 1 of 3. Faceoffs won: Notre Dame 28 (7-11-10), Minnesota 31 (14-8-9). Blocked shots: Notre Dame 11 (4-1-6), Minnesota 12 (3-5-4). 

Referees: Jake Rekucki and Kenny Anderson. Linesmen: Dan Cohen and Johnathan Morrison. Attendance: 7,774 (10,000). 

Records: Notre Dame 4-3-2 overall, 1-1-1-0-0-0 Big Ten for 4 points; Minnesota 6-3-0 overall, 2-1-0-0-0-0 Big Ten 6 points.