Ryan Bischel pointed to the sky, then spread his arms wide for the bear hugs from teammates he knew were coming.
It wasn’t the first time Bischel, the only goalie in the nation with over 1000 saves this season, has kept the Irish in games while under siege. It wasn’t the first time he had put on a clinic, forcing opposition players to simply raise their hands on their heads and wonder “How on Earth did he just do that?” as Ohio State was left to ponder Saturday night.
But this performance, on his senior night, with his team’s NCAA Tournament hopes on the brink, might have been the best of them all.
Somehow, 50 saves in regulation and overtime before stopping six straight Buckeyes in a nine-round shootout was only good enough to be named the game’s second star Saturday night. But when the Irish seniors were celebrated postgame, those who remained in Compton Ice Arena saved the loudest salute for the Medina, Minn. native.
Despite being outshot 52-23 and going down 2-0 early in the second period, Bischel and the Irish (14-4-4, 9-10-3, 31 points) rallied to tie the game at 2-2 in the second period and snatched a 3-2 shootout victory over the No. 7 Buckeyes (17-11-2,10-9-1, 31 points) in front of sellout crowd of 5,022 at Compton Ice Arena. The Irish grabbed five out of a possible six points on offer against the Buckeyes this weekend after splitting their two games in Columbus in November.
“We were hanging on for dear life tonight,” Irish head coach Jeff Jackson said. “Our goalie played great. He didn’t have to make backdoor saves or things like that, but I would have liked to play a little bit more consistent early on in the game.”
The Buckeyes outshot Notre Dame 18-8 and 20-6 in the second and third periods, respectively. From about 11 to just under two minutes left in the third period, Ohio State mustered 17 unanswered shots. None of them, however, beat Bischel.
After Friday’s win, in which the Irish were also outshot, 38-22, Bishop praised the Irish for limiting most of the Buckeyes' opportunities to the perimeter.
“I think they had a few more looks tonight,” Bischel said postgame, shoeless and sporting purple socks with blue spots. But we found a way to survive and win, which is huge.”
Notre Dame was similarly under siege during overtime, making a pair of huge saves with his glove on Ohio State’s Davis Burnside. The Irish almost won it just before the horn through Jake Boltmann, but his wrap-around effort was denied by Jakub Dobes, who had 21 saves. Boltmann was then enraged after receiving a bump from a Buckeye on the way to the bench after the horn, skating over to the referees and vigorously pointing at the Ohio State bench.
Notre Dame’s Nick Leivermann and Hunter Strand were canceled out by Jake Wise and Burnside for Ohio State in the first four rounds of the shootout before both sides failed to convert in any of the next four rounds. Chase Blackmun scuffed a shot beyond Dobes in the ninth round before Bischel made his final save of the night on Ohio State’s Cam Thiesing.
“I try to kind of dictate what they’re going to do,” Bischel said of his philosophy during shootouts.
“He baits us in practice all the time,” added Leivermann, prompting laughs from the room and pleas from Bischel not to disclose his “secrets.”
A Chippy Night in South Bend
After a large scuffle in front of the net after Notre Dame hung on for a 2-1 victory over on Friday, some wondered whether the bad blood would carry over into Saturday night.
A hard hitting first period that only featured 15 total shots was defined by its extracurriculars. When the first 20 minutes concluded, both teams had racked up five penalties for a total of 18 minutes each.
Ohio State would make their third power play of the period count after a tripping call on Fin Williams. The Irish left Bischel vulnerable after losing a 2-on-2 contest against the boards just inside the Irish zone. Bischel made the save on Travis Treloar in the slot, but Mason Lohrei was in front uncontested — along with Stephen Halliday — to tap the puck into an empty net.
Ohio State was in the ascendancy the rest of the period and almost added a second shortly thereafter when Halliday hit Bischel’s right pipe. Notre Dame looked on the ropes but survived as a large scuffle disrupted the end to the period.
Notre Dame’s Justin Janicke drew a cross checking penalty against Scooter Brickey with 14 seconds left in the period, prompting the pair to begin jawing. The situation escalated after Irish center Chayse Primeau — at the center of the postgame melee Friday night — started a scuffle with Halliday and then Treloar. In the aftermath, Primeau and a disbelieving Treloar were assessed 10-minute misconducts, while Ohio State seniors Dalton Messina and Jaedon Leslie both had conversations with referees following the end of the period.
“Frankly they were just trying to get under our skin,” Leivermann said of the Buckeyes, “and it worked a little bit because they were obviously playing well.”
The Irish couldn’t convert on the power play against the nation’s best penalty kill to begin the second period, and it looked like things would unravel for the Irish from there. Just over a minute after the Buckeyes were back on even strength, Ohio State’s Dalton Messina put the Buckeyes up 2-0 with a deflection on a shot by Brickey.
Six minutes into the period, Jackson decided to call a timeout, admitting postgame he thought his team was on its heels. It proved to be a turning point, the Irish halving the deficit 29 seconds later on a Jack Adams deflection, his fifth goal of the season, off a Jake Boltmann shot from the point.
Four minutes later, the Irish completed the comeback, finally breaking down the Buckeyes’ penalty kill after an interference call on Jaedon Leslie. Primeau, falling down, flicked the puck backwards for Landon Slaggert, who threaded it across the ice to his fellow captain, a wide-open Leivermann. Leivermann buried his one-timer into the roof of the net for his sixth goal of the season, which tied his career high.
“We obviously didn’t play well in the first period, but to come back and have a chance to win that game was really special,” he said, “and (on) senior night, of course.”
Before the press conferences began in the team auditorium, a booming rendition of the Notre Dame Victory March from the neighboring Irish locker room was audible. Thanks to a timely timeout and another heroic performance from their goaltender, the Irish might have the opportunity to play at Compton one more time.
That means hosting a first-round game in the Big Ten Tournament. That means they will likely need more heroics from Bischel two weekends from now, this time against Michigan in Ann Arbor.