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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame downs Ohio State twice to open Big Ten play

This weekend, the 10th-ranked Irish opened up play in the Big Ten by heading to Columbus to take on the 16th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in a two game series. After an eight-game home non-conference slate, the matchup with Ohio State (5-3-2, 1-3 Big Ten) marked both the first away games for the Irish (6-3-1, 2-0) and the first games in the conference since the Irish moved to the Big Ten this season. Notre Dame didn’t disappoint, picking up two big wins and returned to South Bend tied for first in the Big Ten. Irish head coach Jeff Jackson believed the change in conferences didn’t have a large effect on his team.

“It doesn’t feel much different for me personally, maybe it did for our guys. We’ve played at Ohio State when we were in the CCHA,” Jackson said. “It was a great environment and a big time environment. That’s what we expected.”

On Friday night, the Irish came out slow. They were out-possessed and out-chanced by the Buckeyes early, and senior defenseman Justin Wade took a five-minute major penalty that put the Irish into a hard position. But the Irish overcame, killing the penalty with some strong defensive play, only allowing one shot on goal during the penalty. The Irish were out-shot 13-4 in the opening frame, but were able to get into the locker room tied 0-0 after a period. Jackson believed that penalty kill was critical in getting the win.

Mackenzi Marinovich | The Observer
Irish sophomore forward Cam Morrison looks to pass the puck during Notre Dame's 6-4 loss to Nebraska-Omaha on Oct. 26 at Compton Family Ice Arena.

“The penalty kill did a good job over all. We killed that major off which was huge early in that game. It could have been a totally different game if they hadn’t,” Jackson explained. “It was a real positive on the PK side.”

The second period went much better for the Irish, as sophomore Cal Burke opened up the scoring early at the 2:03 mark of the second period. A shot from senior defenseman Jordan Gross went wide of the net and bounced out to the near post where Burke was able to beat Ohio State goaltender Sean Romeo on a near side jam. Notre Dame also earned three power plays in the second period, but the Burke strike was the only offense they finished with, leaving it 1-0 Irish after two.

The Irish had a strong defensive third period and were able to close out the Buckeyes with timely offense. Ohio State only generated six shots in the frame, scoring one off of a goal from Janik Moser at the 8:35 mark in the third. This one goal was not enough for the Buckeyes, as junior Dylan Malmquist and sophomore Cam Morrison each tallied goals in the third period, with freshman Colin Theisen adding an empty net goal to put the game on ice. It was another strong performance from Cale Morris, who finished with twenty-three saves to claim the win, and earned the praises of Jackson.

“Morris made a strong statement on the fact that he waited his turn behind [former Notre Dame goaltender] Cal Petersen and he now he means business trying to earn the number one spot,” Jackson stated. “We have a lot of confidence in [freshman goaltender Dylan] St. Cyr becoming a good goalie for us too — it’s still early in the process but he certainly has been more consistent for us and had a real good weekend.”

In many ways, the second game of the series felt like deja vu. For the second time in as many nights the Irish relied largely on goaltending and timely offense to secure the win. The first period was scoreless, with neither team firing more the six shots on the opponents’ net. Both teams were awarded power plays, but for the second night in a row, neither team was able to convert.

In the second period, the Buckeyes came out strong, but it was the Irish that put the first goal on the board. Burke opened up the scoring again with a twisting wrist shot that found its way through traffic and past Romero for an Irish lead. Jackson spoke highly of Burke’s scoring touch after the series.

“He’s got a real good motor, he’s going all the time, he’s tenacious. He can make a play too, he’s got good skill and ability but it’s really about his effort and his competitiveness,” Jackson explained. “He creates plays just using his effort, and then we when he gets the puck on the stick he makes pretty good plays with it.”

The third period was dominated by Ohio State, as the Buckeyes’ 24 shots were more than Notre Dame’s 23 in the entire game. But the Irish stood firm and capitalized on their opportunities, as a tip-in goal by Malmquist and a wrist shot from senior Jake Evans extended the Irish lead out to 3-0. Ohio State would apply late pressure, scoring two goals in the final ten minutes of the frame, including one with less than two minutes left with an extra attacker on. But despite the furious onslaught, it was the Irish who held on to get the sweep by a score of 3-2. Jackson reflected on the importance of the series.

“Getting off to a good start is important, especially being able to it on the road is a real positive for our guys,” said Jackson. “We’re really pleased with the effort, but there’s another really good team coming in here this week [No. 17 Penn State]. We have to play it game by game. We can enjoy the fact that we had a good start, but it’s time to get back to work.”