Ryan Bischel has put up amazing numbers in the net for Notre Dame in nearly every place he has played over the past four-plus seasons. But even he admits there is something special about stopping pucks and winning games in his home state.
Before the Fighting Irish came to Minneapolis for a weekend series versus Minnesota, their coach reminded Bischel, who is from Medina, Minn., that the two games would likely be his final opportunities to win games at 3M Arena at Mariucci. On Friday, Bischel didn’t let that opportunity pass him by.
“It’s a ton of fun coming into this building, for sure,” said Bischel, who had 33 saves in Notre Dame’s 4-2 win over the Gophers on Friday in the opener of their Big Ten series. “The D did a good job of letting me see the puck and things are coming together offensively. It helps when we’re scoring goals.”
The graduate-student goalie, who was named the Big Ten’s first star of the week, helped Notre Dame come from behind to extend its unbeaten streak to seven games (5-0-2) with its first road win of the season.
“It’s a matter of everybody contributing, and I thought tonight, for the most part, everyone did,” Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said. “(Ryan) plays well no matter where we play.”
Notre Dame (7-3-2, 3-0-2) got goals from Drew Bavaro, Patrick Moynihan and Grant Silianoff along with Bischel’s heroics in the crease for its first win in Minneapolis since January 2021. Landon Slaggert added an empty-net goal in the final minute.
Rhett Pitlick and Jimmy Snuggerud scored for the Gophers (5-4-2, 1-3-1), who got 19 saves from goalie Justen Close but fell to 0-3-0 in home conference games this season.
“Until we mature as a team and accept the challenges that are in front of us, we put ourselves in these situations,” Gophers coach Bob Motzko said. “We were playing pretty well. In the second period, we had it going. Everyone in the building knew that except the guys on our bench because if they’re not scoring, they get frustrated.”
Renowned for having one of the best penalty-kill units in the nation, Notre Dame got a stiff test early on when consecutive penalties on the Irish gave Minnesota 99 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play. The Gophers managed two shots and hit two pipes, but stayed off the scoreboard.
“For me it’s kind of nice. Facing some shots early gets you into the game,” Bischel said. “I think that was a good test for us right off the bat and gave us some momentum at the start of the game.”
The teams traded goals in the latter half of the first, with Pitlick popping in the rebound after Bischel stopped Bryce Brodzinski’s initial shot, and the Irish answering when Silianoff chipped a puck past Close following a backhand pass by Brennan Ali.
They traded goals again in the middle frame, with Moynihan scoring on the first shot of the period, stealing a puck from Ryan Chesley behind the net and beating Close with a wraparound. Then Notre Dame did what it does best for 15 minutes or so, playing stifling defense and letting Bischel cook. Minnesota put 17 shots on the Irish net, but needed a seeing-eye, power-play shot by Snuggerud — his team-leading eighth goal of the season — to get back to even.
“That wasn’t only good for our power play, it was good for (Jimmy),” said Brodzinski, who assisted on both Minnesota goals. “We talk about him slow scoring and he’s got eight goals already, so it’s always good to get him going again.”
Bavaro corralled a bouncing puck early in the third and popped it past the Minnesota goalie with a low shot to give Notre Dame its second, and final, lead.
“We made a mistake and then Notre Dame locked it down,” Motzko said.
One of the biggest ovations of the night came when legendary Gophers forward John Mayasich, who remains the only player in a century of hockey at the U of M to have his number retired, was introduced to the crowd. Mayasich, 90, is a 1960 US Olympic gold medalist and flew with the Gophers on their team charter to the 2023 NCAA Frozen Four in Tampa, Florida.
Minnesota survived a second period scare when co-captain Mike Koster was dumped hard into the corner and made his way off the rink favoring his left leg. Koster, who missed the first month of the season with a lower body injury, returned to the game only to be flattened by a Notre Dame cross check, for which the Irish were penalized.
The weekend series concludes with a rematch between the Gophers and Irish on Saturday evening. The opening faceoff is slated for 7 p.m. CT.
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