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Tuesday, March 5, 2024
The Observer

No. 4 Notre Dame sweeps No. 6 Minnesota to extend streak to nine

No. 4 Notre Dame extended its winning streak to nine games this weekend by sweeping Big Ten rival No. 6 Minnesota at Compton Family Ice Arena.

On Friday night, Notre Dame (12-3-1, 6-0-0 Big Ten) defeated Minnesota (9-6-1, 3-4-1 Big Ten) in a tight, 1-0 contest. Irish sophomore goaltender Cale Morris was strong in net, stopping all 44 shots he faced throughout the night — including 17 in the first period to keep the game scoreless. The Irish were able to break through two minutes into the second period on a power play when a shot by junior forward Andrew Oglevie deflected off a Minnesota defender and into the back of the net to put the Irish up 1-0. Senior defenseman Jordan Gross and junior defenseman Bobby Nardella assisted on the score, which was the only goal of the game scored by either team.

Notre Dame recorded 23 shots on goal on the night, while Minnesota recorded 44 shots. Notre Dame went 1-3 on the power play while Minnesota went 0-4.

Ann Curtis | The Observer
Irish sophomore forward Cam Morrison skates with the puck during Notre Dame's 2-2 tie with Denver on Oct. 13 at Compton Family Ice Arena.

After the game, Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson praised Morris’ strong play and his team’s defensive effort.

“[Morris] has been in the zone for the last month,” Jackson said Friday. “He’s very focused. He’s been doing a good job of controlling rebounds. Our guys also did a good job of blocking shots, which probably took away another 10-15 shots. [Morris] deserves most of the credit, but I thought our defense played well in front of him not allowing second shots. I thought our defensive sticks were pretty good. Minnesota shoots for sticks all over the ice; they’re really good with their sticks offensively. We did a good job of controlling sticks for the most part, so the defense deserves credit, too. But it all starts with your goaltender. He’s got to be the guy back there that keeps the puck in front of him.”

Jackson gave credit to his team’s penalty kill unit, which has stopped 22 consecutive opponent power-play opportunities.

“That starts at the goal, but we have a couple of defensemen and forwards that are willing to block shots, and that’s a big part of it, too,” Jackson said Friday.

Jackson also talked about the challenges playing a fast-paced team like Minnesota presents.

“They’re very fast, very skilled,” Jackson said Friday. “They’ve got four good lines, and they come at you in waves. It was certainly a challenge, but I think we can play better. We need to play better.

“They always come out fast. They’ve been up on everybody the last month in the first period. They come out with a lot of energy and we have to try to match that. That really put us on our heels, and then it settled down for a while, and then we played pretty well in the second period and late in the first period. We just have to do a good job of making good decisions, especially coming out of our zone.”

Notre Dame set the tone early in Saturday’s game. Just 1:36 into the first period, senior forward Jake Evans passed the puck between his own legs to sophomore forward Cal Burke in front of the net, who fired the puck past Minnesota junior goalie Eric Schierhorn to give the Irish an early 1-0 lead. Minnesota responded with a power-play goal to tie the score 1-1 with 4:47 left in the first period. The goal snapped Notre Dame’s streak of 23 consecutive penalty kills. The Irish were able to kill off a two minute 5-on-3 power play opportunity for the Gophers before the period ended, however.

Notre Dame once again took the lead 2:45 into the second period when an errant shot attempt bounced off the boards and onto the stick of Irish sophomore defenseman Tory Dello, who was able to fire a shot into the net for his first goal of the season to put the Irish up 2-1. Notre Dame extended its lead nearly 10 minutes later when Evans knocked in a rebound off Schierhorn to give the Irish a 3-1 lead. Minnesota was able to score another power play goal before the period ended, however, to cut the lead to 3-2.

The score remained the same until halfway into the third period, when Burke took a pass from Gross and buried it into the net for his second goal of the game to give Notre Dame a 4-2 lead with 10:04 left in the third period. The Irish added on to their lead when sophomore forward Mike O’Leary recorded his first goal of the season to give Notre Dame a 5-2 advantage with 4:59 left in the game, a lead which would hold for the remainder of the game.

Morris recorded 40 saves on 42 shots by Minnesota, while Notre Dame finished with 35 shots on goal.

After the game, Jackson said he was pleased with his team’s performance but added that his team needs to stay out of the penalty box.

“I thought we were much better tonight than last, although we took some bad penalties,” Jackson said. “I thought we put ourselves in a bad position sometimes with some of the penalties that we took, but other than that, five-on-five, I was very pleased.”

Jackson also praised his team’s first line.

“I made the switch moving Andrew [Oglevie] back to center, and I’ve been wanting to put Cal Burke up with Jake,” Jackson said. “Cal’s an energy guy and Jake is a cerebral guy, and I thought it gave him some speed and some tenacity on his line. I thought Cam Morrison had a really good night tonight and was part of the reason that line was really good, and Jake just makes plays.”

Jackson said when playing back-to-back games, things can boil to an emotional level and teams need the ability to control those emotions.

"That's the tough thing about college hockey when you're playing a team back-to-back, two nights in a row,” Jackson said. “The first night, some things brew, and the second night, they come out. [Minnesota] took some unnecessary penalties, too, probably. I just think we have to have better discipline with several of those penalties. You can’t take penalties 200 feet away from your net, and our first penalties were all in the offensive zone. We’ve got to clean that up."

The Irish will look to keep their winning streak alive when they travel to East Lansing, Michigan, this weekend for a two game series against conference-foe Michigan State, beginning a four-game road trip.