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Late goal salvages Gophers tie at Notre Dame

The Minnesota Gophers hopped back into Big Ten play for the first time in 2023 with the hard-fought battle versus defense-first Notre Dame, getting a tying goal in the final seconds to grab a point.

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Minnesota defenseman Jackson LaCombe (left) battled for a puck with Notre Dame forward Ryder Rolston (12) in the second period of a game between the Golden Gophers and the Fighting Irish on Friday, January 13, 2023 at Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend, Ind.<br/>
Dani Meersman / Notre Dame Athletics

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The “glass is half full" crowd will take a point on the road and be happy. The pessimist will grouse about missed opportunities. No matter how you spin it, the Minnesota Gophers escaped with a 2-2 tie at Notre Dame on Friday in their initial Big Ten game of the second half.

Jackson LaCombe’s extra attacker goal with just under 25 seconds on the clock in the third period lifted the Gophers to the deadlock with the Irish, who never trailed in the game. After a scoreless 3-on-3 overtime dominated by the Gophers, Irish forward Ryder Rolston scored the only goal of the shootout, giving Notre Dame an extra point.

“We were OK tonight. There’s the good thing. But there’s also the bad thing. We’ve got to be better than OK,” said Gophers coach Bob Motzko.

The Gophers (16-6-1) got 20 saves from starting goalie Justen Close, and a first-period goal from Mason Nevers in the kind of tight game that Motzko said he wants his team to learn to play.

Notre Dame got 36 saves from goalie Ryan Bischel and regulation goals from brothers Justin and Trevor Janicke, and now sports a 10-10-2 record.

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Notre Dame goalie Ryan Bischel thwarted a scoring chance by Minnesota forward Logan Cooley in the first period of a game between the Fighting Irish and the Golden Gophers on Friday, January 13, 2023 at Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend, Ind.
Dani Meersman / Notre Dame Athletics

Emerging with a decided shots advantage after the first period, and missed their most notable chance to open the scoring when Cooley clanked the right post after a solo rush to the net.

They ended up even at 1-1 on the scoreboard due in part to the Gophers uncharacteristically taking a pair of first period penalties. Notre Dame scored on the opening power play to take the first lead of the game, but the Gophers answered exactly a minute later.

A long-range shot by Luke Mittlestadt was stopped by Bischel, but bounced high in the air above the crease. Nevers waited for the puck to come down and bounce in the blue paint before slapping it in to knot the score.

“I lost sight of it myself. I have no idea where it went. Straight up, straight down,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said of the ceiling-bound puck that worked in Minnesota’s favor. “Fluky, but it is what it is.”

Minnesota outshot the Irish in the middle frame, but the home club controlled the puck for long stretches and again took a lead when Trevor Janiacke found a tiny gap above Close’s shoulder with the puck.

“We had a good first period but I thought Notre Dame responded and had a very good second period,” Motzko said. “We’re kind of waiting for things to get back and be easier right now. We’re showing a little bit of rust since Christmas…The good thing is we’re going to get through it.”

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Minnesota forward Aaron Huglen (right) battled for the puck along the end boards with Notre Dame center Hunter Strand (10) in the second period of a game between the Golden Gophers and the Fighting Irish on Friday, January 13, 2023 at Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend, Ind.
Dani Meersman / Notre Dame Athletics

With less than a minute on the clock in regulation and Close on the bench in favor of a sixth attacker, LaCombe threaded a shot through a number of Irish legs and jerseys in front of Bischel to force overtime.

“When you’re down one, you want to go to OT, and that gave us another shot at it,” LaCombe said. “They played a good game and we just couldn’t get it done (in overtime).”

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In the 3-on-3 extra session the Gophers had the better of the play and Jimmy Snuggerud clanked the crossbar behind Bischel but they failed to find a winner.

It was the Gophers first shootout in more than two years.

Extra pucks

Healthy scratches for the Gophers on Friday included defensemen Matt Staudacher and Carl Fish, and forwards Charlie Strobel and Colin Schmidt.

Perhaps the most notable scratch was in the pressbox, where Gophers analyst Frank Mazzocco stayed home from a road series for the first time that play-by-play man Wally Shaver could remember in the dozen years they have been on the radio airwaves together. Mazzocco has been battling an illness, and former Gophers standout Pat Micheletti took his place in the booth for the Notre Dame series.

Two of the seven Minnesotans on the Notre Dame roster – forward Grant Sillianoff (Edina) and defenseman Nick Lievermann (Eden Prairie) – missed Friday’s game due to lower body injuries.

The Gophers and Irish conclude their two-game Big Ten series and their season series with a 5 p.m. CT first faceoff at Compton Family Ice Arena on Saturday evening.

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Minnesota 2, Notre Dame 2, OT

Minnesota 1-0-1-0—2

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Notre Dame 1-1-0-0—2

First period — 1. ND, Justin Janicke 5 (Chayse Primeau, Landon Slaggert), 15:18, (PP). 2. MN, Mason Nevers 8 (Luke Mittelstadt), 16:18. Penalties — Aaron Huglen, MN (boarding), 13:22; Jimmy Snuggerud, MN (interference), 18:43.

Second period — 3. ND, Trevor Janicke 7 (Jackson Pierson, Jesse Lansdell), 9:34. Penalties — Ben Brinkman, ND (tripping), 20:00.

Third period — 4. MN, Jackson LaCombe 5 (Mike Koster, Jaxon Nelson), 19:35, (EA). Penalties — L. Mittelstadt, MN (hooking), 6:00.

Overtime — No scoring. Penalties — None.

Shootout — MN: Nevers (no goal), Bryce Brodzinski (no goal), Rhett Pitlick (no goal); ND: Pierson (no goal), Ryder Rolston (goal), T. Janicke (no goal).

Shots on goal — MN 14-11-9-4—38; ND 8-7-6-1—22. Goalies — Justen Close, MN (22 shots-20 saves); Ryan Bischel, ND (38-36). Power plays — MN 0-of-1, ND 1-of-3. Referees — Colin Kronforst, Brett Sheva. Linesmen — Jonathan Sladek, Nick Huff. Att. — 4,984.

Jess Myers covers college hockey, as well as outdoors, general sports and travel, for The Rink Live and the Forum Communications family of publications. He came to FCC in 2018 after three decades of covering sports as a freelancer for a variety of publications, while working full time in politics and media relations. A native of Warroad, Minn. (the real Hockeytown USA), Myers has a degree in journalism/communications from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He lives in the Twin Cities. Contact Jess via email at jrmyers@forumcomm.com, or find him on Twitter via @JessRMyers. English speaker.
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