SOUTH BEND — Just when it appeared the No. 15 Notre Dame hockey team was ready to make a move in the Big Ten Conference race, the Irish ran into a hot goaltender in Wisconsin’s Daniel Lebedeff Friday night.
The 6-foot-2, 188-pound freshman from Finland stopped 30 shots to outduel Notre Dame junior Cale Morris, who had 35, and lead the Badgers to a 2-1 victory over the Fighting Irish before 4,611 fans at the Lefty Smith Rink in the Compton Family Ice Arena.
After dominating Michigan 5-2 Tuesday night, coach Jeff Jackson’s squad never led against Wisconsin, a team from which they took five out of six points last month. After Dylan Malmquist’s goal answered Wisconsin’s opening power-play goal by Linus Weissbach in the first period, Lebedeff came up big in the second period until teammate Roman Ahcan tipped home the game-winner at 17:21 of the second period.
“It’s disappointing,” Jackson said. “You can’t fall behind early — you’re chasing the game all night. We’re not a team that is going to score five goals chasing a game. We didn’t start as fast as we did against Michigan. They played well, much better than when we played them at Wisconsin.”
The loss hurt on a night when the Irish (15-11-3, 8-9-2-2 Big Ten) could have moved solo into second in the league behind No. 2 Ohio State, which has 41 points. Minnesota beat the Buckeyes, 4-3, in Columbus to tie Michigan for second place with 30 points, two ahead of the fourth-place Irish. Michigan State beat Penn State, 5-3, to leap into fifth place a point ahead of the Nittany Lions, who are one ahead of the Badgers.
“Consistency this time of year is the most important word,” Jackson said. “We’ve just not been able to find that level of consistency, especially at home. For whatever reason, we have a challenging time in our own building.”
Notre Dame is only 7-7-1 at the Compton, where the two teams meet again Saturday evening at 6:05 p.m. NBCSN has the telecast. The Irish also are 3-6-2 in 2019.
The victory was a big one for Tony Granato’s youthful Badgers (10-14-5, 6-8-5-2 Big Ten). They are playing this weekend without their 6-foot-4 freshman defenseman K’Andre Miller and it was only their second triumph in their last 11 games.
Even though the Badgers had a 16-10 edge in shots in the first period, Notre Dame had the better scoring opportunities after Wisconsin took a 1-0 lead. With Irish defenseman Matt Hellickson off for slashing at 4:42, Weissbach rebounded a shot by Sean Dhooghe from the point past Morris at 5:31.
The Irish eventually tied it at 15:52 after the O’Leary-Malmquist-Michael Graham line did some nice work controlling the puck in the Wisconsin zone. O’Leary sent a pass over to defenseman Tory Dello, who skated in and shot. Lebedeff made the save but the puck came to Malmquist, who controlled it and then batted it behind the Wisconsin goalie for his team-leading 10thgoal.
Morris kept it 1-1 with one of his best saves of the season at 2:15 when Brock Caufield and Ahcan broke in on a 2-on-1 break. Caufield fed Ahcan who fed it back to Caufield for the shot. Morris, on his belly, somehow got his stick on the puck to keep it out of the yawning net, with Caufield skating back to the bench in disbelief.
But the two Badgers got it right at 17:21 of the period, this time with Caufield sending a pass in front to the breaking Ahcan, who tipped it behind Morris for a 2-1 Badgers lead heading into the third period.
The Irish seemed to come alive midway through the third period with Cal Burke getting a couple of chances and then Pierce Crawford feeding Jack Jenkins in close, but Lebedeff stopped them all before the Badgers took a timeout.
After play resumed, Pivonka and Theisen had shots denied but the Irish got a power play out of it when Matthew Freytag went off at 9:52 for cross checking an Irish player in the scrum that resulted in front. But the Irish came up empty on the opportunity.
First Period—Scoring: 1. Wisconsin, Linus Weissbach 5 (Sean Dhooghe, Wyatt Kalynuk) 5:31 (ppg); 2. Notre Dame, Dylan Malmquist 10 (Tory Dello, Mike O’Leary) 15:52 (even). Penalties: Wisconsin 0-0, Notre Dame 1-2.
Second Period—Scoring: 3. Wisconsin, Roman Ahcan 5 (Brock Caufield, Josh Ess) 17:21 (even). Penalties (total): Wisconsin 0-0 (0-0), Notre Dame 0-0 (1-2).
Third Period—Scoring: None. Penalties (total): Wisconsin 2-4 (2-4), Notre Dame 2-4 (3-6).
Shots on goal—Wisconsin 16-12-9—37; Notre Dame 10-13-8—31.
Goalie saves—Wisconsin, Daniel Lebedeff 9-13-8—30; Notre Dame, Cale Morris 15-11-9—35.
Power-play opportunities—Wisconsin 1 for 3, Notre Dame 0 of 2.
A: 4,611. Time: 2:23. Records: Wisconsin 10-14-5, 6-8-5-2 Big Ten for 25 points; Notre Dame 15-11-3, 8-9-2-2 Big Ten for 28 points.
Overall: Ohio State 19-6-4 (92-61), Minnesota 12-14-4 (92-93), Michigan 12-12-6 (93-93), Notre Dame 15-11-3 (85-69), Michigan State 11-15-5 (92-107), Penn State 16-11-2 (134-107), Wisconsin 10-14-5 (84-94).
Tuesday, Feb. 12
Notre Dame 5, Michigan 2
Friday, Feb. 15
Wisconsin 2, Notre Dame 1
Minnesota 4, Ohio State 3
Michigan State 5, Penn State 3
Saturday, Feb. 16
Minnesota at Ohio State, 6 p.m. (Big Ten)
Wisconsin at Notre Dame, 6:05 p.m. (NBCSN)
Penn State at Michigan State, 7 p.m.