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Irish end losing streak with win against Wisconsin

| Monday, January 21, 2019

Notre Dame entered their weekend series against Wisconsin on a three game losing streak, but after a win on Friday and a tie on Sunday, the Irish secured a possible five out of six much needed Big Ten points.

The No. 12 Irish (13-8-2, 6-6-1 Big Ten) got off to a fast start at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin, on Friday with a pair of goals early in the first period.  Freshman forward Graham Slaggert got the scoring started just a little over two minutes into the first period with a feed in front from Jack Jenkins. Freshman forward Michael Graham doubled the lead for the Irish just eight minutes later with a one-time power play goal.

But the momentum would soon shift in favor of the Badgers (8-10-4, 4-4-4 Big Ten) as they would score the next three goals of the game. A power play goal in the first from freshman defenseman K’Andre Miller got Wisconsin on the board and was followed in the second period with goals from freshman forward Roman Ahcan and sophomore forward Tarek Baker.

The Irish would go on to tie the game later in the second period with after senior defensemen Bobby Nardella scored his sixth goal of the season with a wrist shot over the blocker of goalie Daniel Lebedeff. Entering the third period, the two teams exchanged goals, with Graham putting the Irish up on a power play before the Badgers responded to tie things up at 4-4. Ultimately, junior defensemen Mike O’Leary and Tory Dello each found the back of the net to seal the two-goal win for the Irish.

The series would then shift east to the United Center in Chicago on Sunday evening where the Irish recorded a 2-2 tie and the extra conference point in overtime. Wisconsin found themselves on the board first but were answered later in the first with a goal from Graham. The Badgers would re-take the lead with a last second goal in the first but it would not be enough as Graham scored his second of the night to tie the game. Freshman defensemen Spencer Statsney would go on to end the game in double overtime off a strong shot that fired past Badger goalie junior Jack Berry.

Irish head coach Jeff Jackson said he was impressed with the come-from-behind efforts that powered the Irish to victory in both games of the series.

“It reminds me of last year’s team,” Jackson said. “Resiliency is a tough thing. You can’t coach it. You have to go through experiences in order to learn from previous experiences. We’ve talked a lot about it and our guys are really good on the bench even though we fell down a couple times tonight.”

Jackson also had high praise for the efforts from his freshman, especially that of Graham.

“Sometimes when things happen, you lose some of your top line players, other guys get an opportunity to step up and Michael stepped up into that role on the power play where Cal Burke had been,” Jackson said. “Especially in the second half, you hope that your freshman have figured things out and they have some confidence, and a guy like Michael Graham certainly is thriving right now in his confidence and that certainly helps our team and creates a little bit more secondary scoring and I think he showed his skill and ability this weekend.”

Notre Dame will return to action this weekend when they host Michigan State on Friday and Saturday in another key Big Ten series at the Compton Family Ice Arena. The Irish will be on the hunt to make up more ground in the Big Ten, sitting just one point behind second place and nine behind first.

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