Notre Dame ends year with another first-night loss – a 3-2 setback to Alaska

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent
An overall view during the Michigan-Notre Dame NCAA hockey game on Saturday, November 12, 2022, at Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend, Indiana.

SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame’s first-night hockey frustrations continued the final day of 2022 against visiting Alaska Fairbanks.

The Nanooks got a pair of goals from sophomore right wing Chase Dubois and 32 saves from senior goaltender Matt Radomsky, 17 of them in the final period, to stun the 17th-ranked Irish 3-2 before a sellout crowd of 4,878 fans at the Compton Family Ice Arena in the waning hours before the arrival of new year.

Strand, Notre Dame skaters hoping better second half begins with Alaska series

It was the fifth straight victory for coach Erik Largen’s Nanooks (10-7-2) and the loss for the Irish (8-9-2) was their seventh this season on the first night of a series, which Irish coach Jeff Jackson called a “consistent habit.”

“It’s on us,” said Jackson, whose team is 3-7 in first games but hopes to improve on its 5-2-2 second-game record when the teams meet Sunday afternoon at 5 to close out the series. 

“We make the same mistakes all the time … mistakes that lead to them scoring," Jackson added. "We don’t always make the opposing teams earn their goals. When you are playing a team like Alaska, one of the best defensive teams in the country, if you give them gifts, you’re in trouble, you’re done.”

Dubois, a 5-foot-9, 160-pound redshirt sophomore right wing, stole the puck from Irish defenseman Chase Blackmun and beat Irish goalie Ryan Bischel on a breakaway at 7:28 of the first period. He made it 2-0 when he batted the puck behind Bischel after the Irish got sloppy behind their own net at 2:17 of the second period. Alaska defenseman Karl Falk made it 3-0 at 18:56 of the second period when his shot from the point eluded Bischel when the Irish couldn’t clear the zone.

Jackson then juggled his lines, and the Irish closed the deficit to one after goals by sophomore center Hunter Strand, a native of Anchorage, at 2:37 and grad center Chayse Primeau at 10:47. 

“We seem to juggle lines, trying to look for magic, and it worked,” Jackson said. “It helped. We had a lot of momentum going, but we took an offensive-zone penalty (a hooking penalty by Justin Janicke at 11:30) and that just killed us.”

Radomsky, who entered the game with a 1.95 goals-against average and two straight shutouts of Alaska-Anchorage before Christmas, frustrated the Irish most of the evening. Notre Dame had five power-play opportunities but managed just six shots which Radomsky, a transfer from Holy Cross, stopped. His teammates blocked another 14.

“He’s good,” Primeau said. “Our plan was to get traffic in front, to make his night miserable.”

Instead, the misery belonged to the Irish despite their 34-25 edge in shots, including a 19-11 advantage in the third period, and 35-30 edge in the faceoff circle. Bischel finished with 22 saves, 11 in the third period.

“We’re doing a lot of things to shoot ourselves in the foot,” the 6-foot-3 Primeau, a grad transfer from Omaha, said. “It’s the little things — penalties, obviously, and not being dialed in when you get to the rink. There’s a time to have fun and joke around. But on game days, you have to dial it in more.”

Strand’s goal, his second of the season, ended Radomsky’s shutout string at 170 minutes and 21 seconds and was set up by Grant Silianoff and Ryder Rolston. Primeau’s goal, his fourth of the season, came on his third poke at a loose puck following Jake Boltmann’s blast from the point off a feed from Solag Bakich.