MADISON, Wis. — Notre Dame’s anemic power play got a pair of goals from freshman right wing Michael Graham, and junior goaltender Cale Morris returned to make 33 saves as the 12th-ranked Irish broke a four-game Big Ten Hockey Conference losing streak with a 6-4 victory over Wisconsin Friday night before 10,976 at the Bob Johnson Rink in the Kohl Center.
Graham also had a between-the-leg assist on Mike O’Leary’s game-winning goal at 13:36 of the third period. Defenseman Tory Dello’s empty-net goal at 18:43 with Wisconsin’s backup goalie Jack Berry pulled for a sixth attacker assured that Notre Dame’s third lead in the game would hold up.
Graham Slaggert and Bobby Nardella also scored for the Irish of coach Jeff Jackson, who had to shuffle his various lineups with injuries to three key offensive players. Like Michael Graham, Nardella had a three-point night with a pair of power-play assists as the Irish, who were converting at just 16.9 percent (13 of 77) with the man advantage, went 2-for-3 with it.
“With all the changes in the lines, the power play and penalty killing … I give the guys a lot of credit for staying the course,” Jackson said. “The key for me was the bounce back — when they scored, we came back and scored the next one. To me, that’s a really important feature for us, especially right now (with the injuries).”
The Irish (13-8-1, 6-6-0-0 Big Ten) were outshot by Tony Granato’s Badgers (8-10-3, 4-4-3-1 Big Ten) by a 37-24 margin. But Notre Dame helped itself by winning 35 of 54 faceoffs and blocking 18 other shots from getting to their goalie.
Morris, who blanked Boston College 4-0 on New Year’s Eve, had struggled in losses to Michigan (4-2) and Minnesota (5-1) and sat out last Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Gophers in favor of sophomore Dylan St. Cyr. But despite allowing four goals, Morris looked like the goalie who was Big Ten Player of the Year, an All-American and the Mike Richter Goaltender of the Year last season as the Irish made their second straight trip to the Frozen Four.
Wisconsin got 18 saves from its two goaltenders – starter Daniel Lebedeff, who made 12 (and had an assist) before exiting after taking Michael Graham’s skate to his masked head at 4:22 of the third period. His replacement, Jack Berry, made six stops.
The teams conclude their two-game series Sunday night at 7:30 EST in Chicago’s United Center, home of the NHL Blackhawks. The victory also kept Notre Dame unbeaten in the Kohl Center at 5-0-1 since the 1998-99 season.
The Irish were playing without leading scorer Cal Burke (appendectomy), Cam Morrison (upper body injury) and Joe Wegwerth (season-ending knee surgery) — a trio with 23 of the team’s 62 goals.
Notre Dame 2 1 3—6
Wisconsin 1 2 1—4
First Period—Scoring: 1. Notre Dame, Graham Slaggert 2 (Cam Burke, Jack Jenkins) 2:07; 2. Notre Dame, Michael Graham 2 (Bobby Nardella, Dylan Malmquist) 9:44; 3. Wisconsin, K’Andre Miller 5 (Ty Emberson, Daniel Lebedeff) 13:37. Penalties: Notre Dame 2-4, Wisconsin 1-2.
Second Period—Scoring: 4. Wisconsin, Roman Ahcan 3 (Dominick Mersch) 1:44; 5. Wisconsin, Tarek Baker 5 (Peter Tischke) 11:27; 6. Notre Dame, Bobby Nardella 6 (Colin Theisen) 14:28. Penalties (total): Notre Dame 1-2 (3-6), Wisconsin 1-2 (2-4).
Third Period—Scoring: 7. Notre Dame, Michael Graham (Andrew Peeke, Bobby Nardella) 4:22; 8. Wisconsin, Will Johnson 6 (Ty Emberson, Seamus Malone) 8:23; 9. Notre Dame, Mike O’Leary 3 (Dylan Malmquist, Michael Graham) 13:36; 10. Notre Dame, Tory Dello 1 (unassisted) 18:43. Penalties (total): Notre Dame 2-4 (5-10), Wisconsin 3-6 (5-10).
Power-play opportunities—Notre Dame 2 of 3, Wisconsin 2 of 3.
Shots on goal—Notre Dame 8-7-9—24; Wisconsin 13-12-12—37.
Goalie saves—Notre Dame, Cale Morris 12-10-11—33; Wisconsin, Daniel Lebedeff 6-6-0—12, Jack Berry (4:22, 3rd) 0-0-6—6.
A: 10,976. Time: 2:13.
Records: Notre Dame 13-8-1, 6-6-0-0 Big Ten; Wisconsin 8-10-3, 4-4-3-1 Big Ten.