Irish win one, drop another at home against Badgers
Notre Dame faced off against Wisconsin for the second time this season Friday and Saturday. The Irish (11-11-4, 6-7-3 Big Ten) got shut out in their first meeting against the Badgers (10-13-1, 5-10-1-1 Big Ten) this year in Madison as the Irish struggled to get a point on the board in the contest. The Badgers beat the Irish in the first game of the series 3-0, but the Irish got redemption in the second game of the series beating the Badgers in a thrilling overtime period, 5-4. That being said, having split the first series, this home series for the Irish would be for all the marbles, just a little over a month out from postseason play.
The Irish were lent a gift from the Badgers just under a minute into the matchup as Badgers freshman forward Dylan Holloway got in close on senior goaltender Cale Morris and ended up putting the puck into the back of the net, but only after knocking Morris on his behind. Holloway was charged with goaltender interference, giving the Irish a power play just moments into play. This opportunity was not capitalized on, however, and just a few minutes later the Irish found themselves on the other end of a power play after sophomore forward Graham Slaggert was put in the penalty box for slashing. The Irish were able to deter the Badger power play and got on the board immediately after they got back to full strength, 12:25 into the game. Sophomore forward Michael Graham knocked in a shot from close range to put the Irish up 1-0 with just under 10 minutes remaining in the first stanza.
The Irish had clearly caught the Badgers off-guard and kept on the gas. They scored again just minutes later when senior forward Mike O’Leary knocked in a chip shot similar to that of Slaggert’s just over 14 minutes into the game.
The Badgers were finally able to respond after a rough first period when freshman forward Cole Caufield snuck one past Morris with just over a minute remaining in the first period, and at the end of the first the Irish held a 2-1 lead over the Badgers.
The Badgers were the ones applying pressure in the second period after Caulfield scored again just over two minutes into the second period, knotting up the score at 2-2. Minutes after this goal, the Irish had a power play advantage, but for the second time they were not able to capitalize on it. The Irish found themselves against the ropes after this goal but were able to respond when junior forward Colin Theisen was able to flip the puck over the Badgers’ goaltender to put the Irish up 3-2. Additionally Morris made some terrific pad saves in the second, where otherwise the Irish would have found themselves trailing.
Shortly after the goal, players from both sides got into a scrap, and four-on-four hockey commenced after a vast array of players were sent to the box to serve their penalty time. During this time, the Badgers were able to respond with a goal of their own and the game was all tied up again, 3-3.
Hoping to apply more pressure, the Badgers were able to put another in the back of the net, giving Caulfield a hat trick on the night. After taking advantage of the power play situation following the scuffle, in which Irish sophomore defenseman Charlie Raith was given a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct, the Badgers had a 4-3 lead heading into the final period.
The Badgers were able to extend their lead early in the final period after senior forward Max Zimmer found the back of the net on a shot from nearly 20 feet out. This goal was answered shortly thereafter, when the Irish found themselves on a five-minute power play after a Wisconsin player picked up a game misconduct. Notre Dame found the back of the net off a shot from sophomore forward Cam Burke to narrow the Badger lead to 5-4.
This would not be enough for the Irish to overcome, however, as the Badgers put up yet another goal when the Irish pulled Morris from goal with under a minute remaining with hopes of a scoring chance. The Badgers defeated the Irish in the first game of the series with a final score of 6-4.
Game two of the conference series would see an early onslaught from the Badgers as Wisconsin would hold the majority of possession for the first three minutes of the first period. The early pressure would result in a slashing penalty from Notre Dame junior forward Pierce Crawford, putting the dangerous Wisconsin power play up a man six minutes in. With a few well-timed blocked shots and clearances, the Notre Dame penalty killing unit would hold off the Wisconsin offense. The Irish would eventually establish offensive zone time in the latter half of the period, earning quality looks on senior goaltender Jack Berry and a chance on the power play.
While the Irish would fail to convert on the man advantage, the quality scoring chances continued to mount with several in-tight battles in front of the Wisconsin crease from loose rebounds. Late in the period, Notre Dame would nearly hang a goal on the board, but a cross-crease save off the mask of Berry would keep Theisen from scoring his seventh goal of the season.
Before the first frame would come to a close tied at 0-0, tempers would flare after Wisconsin junior forward Tarek Baker took a hard charging penalty, leading to a scrum between both teams.
The Irish would again fail to convert on the man advantage early in the second period, recording just one shot in the abbreviated advantage. The Irish would nearly strike for the first goal of the game again, but the cross bar would deny Burke. It would ultimately be Wisconsin who would draw first blood at the 7:01 mark when a point shot from junior defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk was tipped by junior forward Sean Dhooghe and found twine behind Morris, putting the Badgers up 1-0 and 1-2 on the power play.
Morris would be called upon just two minutes later to stop a short-handed bid from sophomore forward Roman Ahcan, keeping the deficit to just one goal. Notre Dame would eventually strike back with a power play goal of their own after a wrist shot from sophomore forward Alex Steeves beat senior goaltender Jack Berry to tie the score at 1-1 with 10:09 left in the second.
A scary moment on the ice would occur in the latter half of the second period when Dhooghe bowled into Morris, keeping him down for an extended period of time. Morris would eventually find his feet and return back to action.
With 3:35 left in the frame, Notre Dame would take its first lead of the game at 2-1 when Irish sophomore defenseman Charlie Raith was able to beat Berry with a screened wrist shot. Sophomore defenseman Nate Clurman and Steeves would pick up assists on the goal. With seven seconds left in the period, the Irish would waste no time capitalizing on a 5-3 power play when forward senior captain Cal Burke elevated a rebound off of the stick of Steeves to give Notre Dame a 3-1 lead headed into the dressing room.
The third period started quickly for Wisconsin when forward Roman Ahcan slipped a short-handed goal past Morris to cut the Irish lead in half just 17 seconds in. The Badgers would continue to apply heavy pressure to the Irish in their own defensive zone, taking several open shots, forcing Morris to come up big. Both the Irish and the Badgers would begin to play fast two-way hockey with Notre Dame earning several high danger scoring chances.
With 10:01 in the third, the Irish would again capitalize on the man advantage and restore their two-goal lead when sophomore forward Michael Graham fired a wrist shot into the back of the net past Berry. Steeves would pick up another assist on the goal, earning himself a four-point night. The Irish would continue to play solid hockey and keep the Badger’s offense limited. Irish senior defensemen would ice the game away with an empty net goal to push the Notre Dame lead to 5-2.
Irish head coach Jeff Jackson commended his team for their effort after the first period of the game to secure the victory.
“We didn’t start as quick as I would have liked to, but we got better as the game went on,” he said. “We showed a little bit of resilience tonight which is something we’ve been lacking. When they scored that goal in the start of the third, at least we responded and came back and settled things down.”
The power-play units of the Irish were firing on all cylinders during the contest, helping to contribute three out of the five goals scored for the home team. Jackson was extremely pleased with the performance of his special teams.
“It’s long overdue to have a multiple goal power play night,” Jackson said. “It’s good to see that we had some opportunities, and we took advantage of them. I thought our guys moved the puck around well.”