ND Hockey: The Gophers Break The Hearts Of The Irish

There are moments in a season to make a statement about a program. This weekends series with the Minnesota Golden Gophers was one of them. After coming off the sweep against the Ohio State Buckeyes, advancement in the B1G standings was very possible. Beat the Gophers and movement in the B1G and national rankings was very possible. But home ice has not been favorable for the Irish this season. The Irish need all the wins they can get regardless of where they are playing. Home is where the heart is, home is where you need to be a skate ahead of the competition. The Gophers want to play the role of heartbreaker on Valentine’s Day weekend at Compton Family Ice Arena. They want to avenge the sweep of the Irish just a few weeks ago.

Friday Evening

First Period

The Gophers come out on fire in the first period against the Irish. The Fightin’ Irish were not doing bad either. Both teams were exchanging time on the offensive and defensive end. They both were working goalies Dylan St Cyr and Jack LaFontaine. An early power play in the period allowed Alex Steeves (2 shots on goal) and Colin Theisen (1 shot on goal) to give LaFontaine some work on the Irish offensive end. The power play for the Irish was erased as Jake Pivonka took a 2 minute penalty for holding at 9:33. When the Gophers got the man advantage at 10:17, Captain Sammy Walker of the Gophers, lights the lamp for a 1-0 lead at 11:10.

After the goal by the Gophers, you could see the momentum in the period completely shifted in the Gophers direction. The Gophers began to feel like they did a few weeks ago, dominant. The Fightin’ Irish spent a lot of time on the defensive end during the remainder of the period. Nick Leivermann, Ryder Rolston and Pivonka all had opportunities on LaFontaine, but they were denied. The Irish go into the first intermission 1-0. The Gophers led the shots on goal 10-8, and were 1-1 on the power play while the Irish went 0-1.

Second Period

The Irish came out firing at the start of the period. Graham Slaggert had an early opportunity at the start. The Gophers were not going to allow the Irish to gain momentum. Firing three consecutive shots on goal, St Cyr was busy between the pipes. Landon Slaggert missed an opportunity after the barrage on St Cyr but was not able to get it past Lafontaine. The Gophers would get seven shots on goal before the Irish had an opportunity to put one on Lafontaine. But more Irish opportunities were on the horizon/

An Irish power play evolved after a Gopher penalty for tripping at 15:49. The power play for the Irish allowed one shot by Pivonka. It also allowed a short handed opportunity by the Gophers that was successfully saved by St Cyr. Late in the period at 19:15, after a lengthy review the penalty is assessed. Gopher Jaxon Nelson hit Solag Bakich and is given a five minute major, contact to the head penalty. He was also given a ten minute game misconduct call that ends his night. That would also wrap up the period. The Gophers once again dominate shots on goal 14-6, but St Cyr does not allow a goal in the period. The Score remains 1-0 at the second intermission.

Third Period

Being down one goal going into the period is not the best spot to be in. In the same breath, it’s not a spot that a win cannot come out of it. The previous week, the Irish scored three goals on a five minute major, that did not happen this time. Leivermann and Colin Theisen had single opportunities, Solag Bakich had two opportunities on the power play. The Irish also allowed a chance but was blocked by Leivermann. Bakich actually had another opportunity coming out of the power play but was denied again.

The tide turns in the favor of the Gophers. Building momentum on the penalty kill, the Gopher started to hammer on their offensive end. The Gophers possessing the puck for almost two minutes frustrated the Irish. Matt Steeves, who hadn’t seen much ice time, goes to the Sin Bin at 7:00 for boarding. The Irish penalty did the needful and didn’t allow a goal on the penalty kill. Minnesota began crashing the net again and took control of the second half of the period. At 15:35, Sampo Ranta lights the lamp to give the Gophers a 2-0 lead late. Taking a gamble late in the game, the Coach Jackson pulls St Cyr for the extra attacker. The Irish generate two shots on goal. But the gamble works in the Gophers favor as they light the lamp for a final score of 3-0.

Charlie Raith versus Minnesota Golden Gophers Photo Courtesy Fighting Irish Media

Saturday Evening

First Period

The Irish can still salvage standing positions in the B1G with a split on the weekend. Coming off the loss the night before the Fightin’ Irish needed to do just that.

The Irish had fire in their belly coming onto the ice to start the game. Shaking off the previous nights loss against the Gophers. The Irish had the first three shots on goal of the game. Leivermann had two of them while Trevor Janicke had the one. The Irish played a little defense while St Cyr blocked two of the Gophers shots on goal. Alex Steeves (2) and Graham Slaggert (1) accounted for the next three shots on goal for the Irish. While Ryan Bischel was getting some work against the Gophers, The Irish continued to try and solve the LaFontaine question. LaFontaine was like a giant barrier to the Irish offense. Rolston, Landon Slaggert, Matt Hellickson, Graham Slaggert, Charlie Raith, Nate Clurman, Pivonka, Ryder Rolston, all tried to solve the mystery. They were all denied in the period shot continuously on LaFontaine. Going into the first intermission, the score was 0-0. The Irish dominted the shots on goal 15-7 and playing lots of time on their offensive end.

Second Period

Minnesota once again was not going to allow ND to gain momentum. The came out firing after making adjustments at the break. Both teams took two shots on goal before Brannon McManus put the Gophers up 1-0 at 4:09. At 6:16, two minutes after the first Gopher goal, Nathan Burke but the Gophers up 2-0. That’s a dagger for the Irish. The Irish finally get a power play. This opportunity that ends up being more like a Gophers power play. They had three short handed attempts on Bischel. At 11:52 the Irish penalty kill kept the Gophers out of the net. Including a overturned goal on the challenge by Coach Jackson for offsides against the Gophers. The Irish trail 2-0 going into the second intermission. Minnesota flips the momentum and led shots on goal 14-6.

Third Period

The Irish open the period with Leivermann, Pivonka, Landon Slaggert, and Bakich taking shots on LaFontaine and being denied. The Irish successfully killed of the Gopher power play via the Charlie Raith tripping call at 7:16. ND continued their aggressive ways until 15:11 when the Gophers Sampo Ranta collects the goal to go ahead 3-0. Spencer Stastney got a late game opportunity on LaFontaine, but he was denied as well. At 19:24 a kerfuffle (a small comotion) breaks out between the teams. Ryder Rolston gets a five minute major for roughing and a ten minute game misconduct. The Gophers return the favor and sweep the Irish 3-0 and six points in the B1G standings for their work.

The Wrap Up

The Fightin’ Irish are on the brink of being eliminated from the Frozen Four Tournament. They will have to win on their home ice in the March B1G Conference single game elimination tournament. They are going to need to recompose themselves as this is not how Coach Jackson likes to see them play. It’s been a tough season for the Irish at Compton Family Ice Arena, but there is still hope for the tournament. The Irish will play next weekend at Wisconsin and hope they can sweep that road series as well.

Cheers and Go Irish! ☘🥅🚨🌩

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