The Wisconsin Badgers (9-13-0, 2-10-0 Big Ten) stood toe to toe with the No. 20 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-10-2, 5-6-1), earning a hard-fought series split and coming just short of an unfathomable comeback.
In their first game back on the Kohl Center ice in over a month, the Badgers shutout the Fighting Irish, 2-0, in a defensive dogfight on Friday night.
Despite controlling the puck for much of the opening frame, Wisconsin was unable to find the back of the net in the first 20 minutes of play. Once the closing horn of the first period sounded, the Badgers skated off the ice with a commanding 16-7 shots advantage, though nothing to show for it.
As the second period trudged on, both sides remained locked in a scoreless stalemate thanks to terrific play by goaltenders Jared Moe and Ryan Bischel. It wasn’t until 14:06 in the middle frame that the Badgers drew first blood.
During a Wisconsin power play, Cruz Lucius fed teammate Tyson Jugnauth at the point. The latter freshman did the rest, lining up a shot from the Big Ten logo and wristing the puck home through a sea of Notre Dame defenders to put the Badgers up, 1-0.
UW’s Corson Ceulemans wasted little time before doubling the Badgers’ lead. As the second period drew to a close, the defenseman corralled a loose puck in the neutral zone and skated it towards Notre Dame’s far side faceoff circle. After momentarily losing his footing, he was able to fire off a prayer that somehow sneaked under Bischel’s pads for the score and 2-0 lead.
On the heels of earning the award for “Most Outstanding Goalkeeper,” at last week’s Kwik Trip Holiday Face-Off, Moe once again proved worthy of the title in the closing frame of Friday’s contest. The Badgers goaltender stopped several attempts from point blank range en route to saving 12 shots in the third period and 27 on the night. In Wisconsin’s prior three games entering play Saturday – two of which were shutouts – he stopped 73 of the 75 shots directed his way.
“They did a heck of a job,” Moe said of his teammates after the 2-0 win. “[Tonight was] just a really good overall team effort.”
Saturday night bore a far higher-scoring contest, as the Badgers’ four straight power-play goals weren’t enough to overcome a five-goal deficit, leading to a 6-4 defeat.
Notre Dame swiftly put their scoreless effort from the prior evening in the rearview mirror, notching four unanswered goals in the first period.
ND’s Drew Bavaro kickstarted the scoring barrage with a wrister from the point at 5:32 in the first. Teammate Trevor Janicke followed close behind, netting a one-timer from the faceoff circle to double the Fighting Irish’s lead, 2-0, at 8:52.
Bavaro added another score – his second of the game – with 5:30 left in the opening frame. Although Moe successfully stopped the defenseman’s initial shot, the rebound deflected off a Badger blueliner and into the back of the net.
Jesse Landsell’s power-play goal at 18:26 left the Badgers in a seemingly insurmountable 4-0 hole at the first intermission.
Badgers coach Tony Granato opted to replace Moe with goaltender Kyle McClellan in net after Wisconsin surrendered four goals on 17 shots in the first. McClellan didn’t fare much better in his relief, allowing a score in the closing minute of the second period to extend UW’s disadvantage, 5-0.
As the home crowd of 9,167 started heading for the exits at the start of the closing frame, UW’s Mathieu De St. Phalle gave them reason to return to their seats. Lucius received the puck as he skated into the offensive zone and connected with De St. Phalle, whose wrist shot from the far side picked the top corner to get the Badgers on the board, 5-1.
De St. Phalle scored his second power-play goal of the game at 9:28 in the third period. Moments after receiving a feed from Jugnauth, the junior forward shot in stride from the top of the faceoff circle to bring Wisconsin within four.
Wisconsin was gifted another golden scoring opportunity with 5:17 left in the contest after ND’s Jake Boltmann was assessed a five-minute major for high sticking. The Badgers capitalized on the one-man advantage less than a minute later, as Lucius set up Carson Bantle down low for an easy tap-in goal.
ND’s Janicke put an end to the Badgers’ flurry of unanswered goals at 17:08 in the third. With Notre Dame still down a man due to the aforementioned major penalty, the forward rushed up the ice and buried his second goal of the night to reestablish the Fighting Irish’s comfortable lead, 6-3.
The Badgers wouldn’t go down without a fight, recording one last power-play goal at 18:39 in the period. Bantle assumed his frequent position in the slot and squeezed the puck past Bischel after collecting a rebound in front of the net.
Wisconsin’s miraculous comeback ultimately fell short, with Notre Dame hanging on to secure the 6-4 victory.
Following the hard-fought series-split, the Badgers look to host the U.S. Under 18-team on Friday, Jan. 13 at the Kohl Center. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.