Going into the weekend the Fightin” Irish had one thing on their mind, get back to their winning ways on the road. Going into Minnesota the Irish were 5-6-1 (overall) and 3-4-1-0-1-1 (B1G). Minnesota sits atop the B1G at 11-1-0 (overall) and 9-1-0-0-0-0 (B1G). That is correct one loss on their schedule so far. The Gophers dominance was starting to look like a cake walk towards the regular season the divisional champions. But, that’s why the games are played. Nothing is a given, that’s what makes college sports so great. There is one thing for sure, they are called the Fightin’ Irish for a reason, and fight they did.
The came to play Friday night. In the opening moments of the game the Irish were peppering the offensive end of the ice keeping Minnesota Goalie Jack LaFontaine busy, up to the point where Pierce Crawford took a two minute penalty for “elbowing” at 7:26. The momentum swung the Gophers way through the Irish penalty kill until Jackson LaCombe scored at 16:50. In Irish fashion, the Irish puckers wasted no time putting their own crooked number on the board at 19:28. Alex Steeves, scores the even strength goal to tie the game at 1-1 just before the first intermission.
When you lead a division and your opponent scores like the Irish did at the end of period, you quickly make adjustments at the break. The Gophers Sampo Ranta wasted not time lighting the lamp. At 1:48 in the second period the Gophers go up 2-1, just like that. The second period was being dominated by the Gophers at both ends of the ice. Peppering Freshman Ryan Buschel with shots. A penalty by Gopher Jaxon Nelson for “holding” at 5:13 put the Irish on the Power Play.
The power play for the Irish has been pretty non-existent. Though it was better in the weekend before Arizona State. All they can say is that the Power Play slump is over. Landon Slaggert righted that slump. Slaggert lights the lamp at 6:23 to even the score at 2-2. The momentum swung back in the Fightin’ Irish direction. 2-2 would be the score going into the second intermission. A successful penalty kill and power play is the big difference in the period.
The other concern for the Irish this Season is winning the close game. Maintaining composure and finishing the third period has been a challenge. With a tie going into the third period, both teams want to tighten up the defense and not be the first team to blink. The Fightin’ Irish forced the Gophers to play plenty of defense in the finishing period. Playing a penalty less period means, tired skaters. The Fightin’ Irish just kept an assault on LaFontaine from beginning to end of the period. At 15:17 Graham Slaggert gets the game winner at even strength to seal the Irish victory. Even with an extra attacker on the ice when the Gophers pulled their Goalie at 18:28, the Gophers just couldn’t overpower the Irish defense. The Irish beat the B1G conference leader 3-2 in Minnesota. Ryan Bischel had seventeen saves on the night.
The Irish improve to 6-6-1 (overall) and 4-4-1 (B1G)
Stars Of The Game
⭐ Graham Slaggert
⭐⭐ Landon Slaggert
⭐⭐⭐ Alex Steeves
The hardest part of winning a game like the Irish did on Friday night, is keeping the momentum going into Saturday’s contest. You don’t want to get to full of confidence that it backfires and there is a meltdown. A win on Saturday night for the Fightin’ Irish will definitely have an impact in the B1G standings and the national rankings. The key to a victory on Saturday Night would be to play Irish hockey, start fast and finish strong.
Solag Bakich understands the message of start fast, At 1:54, Bakich finds the back of the net and lights the lamp early for the Irish for an early 1-0 lead.
It’s no surprise that the first period saw both teams spend time in the “sin bin” as Minnesota needed to change the way the game was being played. Being dominated once again, is not a characteristic of the team this season. The Irish penalty kill did what was necessary to keep the Gophers off the scoreboard, while the Irish Power Play didn’t yield any points, the Fightin’ Irish offense put the Gophers on defense most of the period. The Irish played with a purpose in the period and it kept the Gophers off the score again at home. Once again, the Irish were forcing the Gophers to play from behind. After one period of play the Irish lead 1-0.
The second period saw the Gophers wanting to set the tempo. Spending much time in their offensive end of the ice, the Gophers were trying to find pockets of no resistance in the Irish defense. The problem was, they could find any. Again, a back and forth battle between the teams ensued. At 9:20 the Irish go on the Power Play as a result of a “hooking” penalty on Blake McLaughlin. Dominating the Power Play was a must on this opportunity. Max Ellis found and opening and lights the lamp at 10:37 to put the Irish up 2-0 and ultimately would the game winner in the second period. That goal wa Max Ellis’ first collegiate Power Play goal and first game winner of the season.
The Irish offense and defense showed signs of the great Irish teams of the recent past. No better place to build confidence than on the road.
Finishing for the Fightin’ Irish would be the key to the third period. After cleaning up a Gophers Power Play, The Irish get back to full strength. Both teams take turns once again playing in their offensive zones, while the opposition defense continued to deny access to the net. At 17:28, the Gophers go “all-in” and empty the net for an extra attacker. Now its 6 on 5 with the empty net in the Gophers defensive end. The move pays dividends for the Gophers. At 17:36 Jaxon Nelson denies the Irish a shutout and scores to put the Gophers on the board at 2-1.
After the score, the Gophers try again for lightning in a bottle, but it doesn’t work this time. A penalty on the Gophers Ben Meyers for “boarding” takes away the extra attacker. The Irish take care of business and complete the sweep of Minnesota 2-1 on the road. The Irish improve to 7-6-1 (overall) and 5-4-1 (B1G)
The Irish return to Compton Family Ice Arena to take on Michigan, Thursday and Friday. Both games have a 6:30 PM EST puck drop. Thursday’s game can be seen on NBC Sports regional networks (SNY, NBC Sports Boston, NBC Sports Chicago and NBC Sports Philadelphia+) and Friday’s game will be broadcast on NBCSN. Both games will be streamed via the NBC Sports platforms, including the NBC Sports App and NBCSports.com.
Cheers and Go Irish! ☘🥅🚨🌩