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Sunday, April 21, 2024
The Observer

Defensive struggles cost Irish hockey against Boston College

The Notre Dame hockey team prepares around graduate student goaltender Ryan Bischel before their 3-0 win over Ohio State at Compton Family Ice Arena on Nov. 11.

On Black Friday in South Bend, No. 18 Notre Dame hockey walked away with a rotten deal. The Irish ran into No. 2 Boston College, losing 6-1 to one of the most talented teams in college hockey.

With the lopsided defeat, Notre Dame dropped to 7-5-2 on the year. Meanwhile, the Eagles improved to 10-2-1 before beating Harvard later in the weekend.

“We were flat-footed most of the night,” Irish head coach Jeff Jackson said. “[The Eagles] put a lot of speed on us, and we didn’t handle it very well.”

Boston College wasted little time scoring first on the road. The Eagles’ top forward line, littered with high-end NHL draft picks, lit the lamp just 3:44 into the game. A quick breakout sent Boston College into the Irish zone with numbers, leading Ryan Leonard to blast home a drop pass from Gabe Perreault.

After 10 more minutes of even, first period hockey, Notre Dame knocked on the door of a tie game. During their first power play of the game, the Irish put six shots on target, but the Eagles' freshman netminder Jacob Fowler stifled each.

Then, just 39 seconds after the man-advantage concluded, Boston College struck in transition again. And once again it was Leonard hammering a one-timer on a setup from his fellow freshman linemates, Perreault and Will Smith. All afternoon, the Eagles found success in spreading out the Irish defense to open up dangerous scoring areas in the slot.

“I just thought we weren’t dialed in the way we needed to be, mostly on transition defense,” Jackson said. “We gave up way too many odd-man rushes, our defensive zone coverage was not really sharp [and] they had way too many clean looks. They had too much time to make plays, and we’ve been doing pretty well in that area.”

Early in the second period, Boston College killed off another penalty and scored a third goal. While the puck moved along the Irish blue line, Notre Dame graduate student forward Patrick Moynihan collided with an Eagle, falling out of the play. That collision left Boston College defenseman Drew Fortescue wide open to walk into the slot and bury his third goal of the season.

Midway through the frame, the Eagles made it 4-0 as Notre Dame self-destructed. Irish penalties for hitting from behind and slashing bookended junior forward Justin Janicke’s 10-minute misconduct, giving the visitors a 5-on-3 advantage. As the Irish sold out to block a high-low pass, Perreault found an empty space along the goal line, scoring in tight when Smith threaded the needle to find him.

Three minutes later, more brilliant passing yielded a fifth Eagle goal at even strength. Back-to-back cross-ice feeds sent Irish graduate student goalkeeper Ryan Bischel sliding several feet outside his crease, leaving Oskar Jellvik with an empty net to shoot into. Bischel made 33 saves on the day but time and time again fell victim to shoddy coverage from the men in front of him. 

“He was left out to dry too often for my benefit,” Jackson said of Bischel. “I hate to have him go through that when we’re not playing well in front of him … But we just need to be sharper, especially [with] teams of this caliber. I think our guys — I have to believe they were ready to play, but it certainly didn’t look like it.”

The Eagles scored one more slick goal to start the third period. Jellvik’s behind-the-back pass from below the goal line found the waiting stick of Andre Gasseau, who scored quickly from beside the net. Notre Dame scored the exact same goal in the game’s final two minutes, as Moynihan deftly set up senior forward Landon Slaggert. The captain’s 10th goal of the season broke the shutout but didn’t change his team’s disappointing result.

“We didn’t play like we’ve been playing,” Jackson said. “[The Eagles] are an exceptionally good hockey team — that’s not my point — but I didn’t think we were really sharp for whatever reason … Hopefully, it’s just a one-game fluke and we’ll get back at it.”

Notre Dame’s last ugly loss, an 8-2 debacle against Boston University on Oct. 21, preceded a seven-game unbeaten streak. Returning to conference play this weekend, the Irish will seek a similar response at home against Michigan.

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