Moe makes 49 saves as Badgers frustrate No. 7 Irish 3-1 in playoff opener

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND – The last thing Jeff Jackson and his No. 7 Notre Dame hockey team needed to hear Friday night was the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger singing, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

The Irish didn’t, thanks in very large part to a season-high 49 saves by Wisconsin junior goalie Doug Moe in a stunning 3-1 Badgers victory which opened the Big Ten Tournament best-of-three quarterfinal series before 3,634 at the Lefty Smith Rink in the Compton Family Ice Arena.

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On a night when the Fighting Irish put a season-high 50 shots on net and had another 18 shots blocked by the Badgers, the Irish managed just one goal – by Graham Slaggert at 13:52 in the second period that produced a temporary 1-1 tie – in five power-play chances despite 15 shots on net.

It was a night of frustration for Notre Dame (25-10), which saw a five-game winning streak backstopped by graduate goalie Matthew Galajda end and now forces the Irish to win Saturday night’s game starting at 6 p.m. to extend the series to a third game on Sunday at 6 p.m. Notre Dame took 82 shots to Wisconsin’s 55, put 50 shots on goal to Wisconsin’s 27 and had a 40-29 edge in faceoffs while Galajda finished with 24 saves. 

But all that couldn’t prevent coach Tony Granato’s Badgers (10-22-3) from a sweet victory. Dominick Mersch’s rebound goal off a Tyler Inamoto shot 38 seconds after Slaggert scored in the second period proved to be the game-winning goal at 14:30 for Wisconsin. The Badgers entered the game coming off 5-0 and 8-0 losses last weekend at Minnesota and on a three-game losing streak since beating Notre Dame 5-3 in Madison on Feb. 12. 

Brock Caufield opened the game’s scoring at 15:22 of the first period and Zach Urdahl’s insurance goal at 5:57 of the third period closed out the victory for the Badgers, who had lost nine of their last 10 games. The stunning setback dropped Notre Dame's standing in the NCAA Tournament Pairwise ratings from No. 7 to No. 9.

“They played well – give them their due,” Jackson said. “Playoff hockey – that’s what you have to be prepared for. Anything can happen in the playoffs. They played hard and they played well. Moe looked confident in the net.”

Even though three Irish shots hit pipes behind him, Moe was on his game after the Badgers held an early 6-2 edge in shots in first 7:03. From there, Notre Dame peppered him with shots and the Wisconsin junior goalie stopped 18 more as Notre Dame closed with a 20-11 edge in shots. Cam Burke and Justin Janicke hit pipes during the first 8:24 to keep Notre Dame off the board.

The only shot in the first period that got by a goalie belonged to the Badgers, who last scored in a 3-2 loss to the Irish on Feb. 13 in Madison, 19 days ago. The Badgers ended a scoreless streak of 142 minutes and 29 seconds when senior Caufield got behind Irish defensemen Nick Leivermann and Spencer Stastney and clanged a shot off the pipe that crossed the goal line to beat Galajda at 15:22. Mathieu De St. Phalle, who had two goals in Madison when the Irish and Badgers split their February series, and Carson Bantle got assists.

Notre Dame tried to tie it up on a power play, but Moe made three saves on Leivermann to keep his team in the lead going to the locker room.

The Irish got another early second-period power play when Wisconsin’s Roman Ahcan went off for slashing at 4:57, but Moe made three saves to keep the Irish scoreless.

But Notre Dame kept up the pressure and got another extra-skater advantage at 12:24 when Badger defenseman Inamoto was whistled for boarding at 12:24. Moe again looked like he had the Irish stoned again, making five saves in the first 1:25 of the penalty. 

Finally, Leivermann got control of the puck and skated down the slot and cut to his left before throwing a cross-ice pass to Graham Slaggert, who put it into the Wisconsin net before Moe could react at 13:52 to tie the game at 1-1.

But that score lasted only 38 seconds as Inamoto took a pass from Corson Ceulemans and forced a shot that Galajda saved only to have Mersch poke the puck home at 14:30 for a 2-1 lead the Badgers took to their locker room for the second-period intermission. Moe made another 15 saves in the period, nine of them during the two Irish power plays, for a two-period total of 35.

The Irish kept up the pressure early in the third period, but Moe held his ground. First, he stopped a pair of Solag Bakich shots near the end of the first five minutes to keep it 2-1. Then after Ryder Rolston kept control of the puck but couldn’t get off a shot, the Badgers put another nail in the coffin when Urdahl finished off a 2-on-1 break at 5:57 to make it 3-1.

 Moe denied Landon Slaggert on the doorstep at 11:25 and then denied tip-ins by Rolston and Burke with just over seven minutes to go. Then with Mersch off the ice for tripping, Landon Slaggert hit the post at 14:01.

Jackson pulled Galajda at 16:18 but the Irish managed just one more shot that Moe turned away as the Badgers’ defense, led by Inamoto and Ceulemans blocked three shots to finish the period with 11 blocks and a game total of 18.

WISCONSIN 3, NOTRE DAME 1

At Lefty Smith Rink in Compton Family Ice Arena, South Bend

Wisconsin  | 1 | 1 | 1—3 

Notre Dame | 0 | 1 | 0—1

First Period—Scoring: 1. Wisconsin, Brock Caufield 7 (Mathieu De St. Phalle, Carson Bantle) EV 15:22. Penalties: Wisconsin 1-2, Notre Dame 0-0.

Second Period—Scoring: 2. Notre Dame, Graham Slaggert 10 (Nick Leivermann, Ryder Rolston) PP 13:52. 3. Wisconsin, Dominick Mersch 5 (Tyler Inamoto, Corson Ceulemans) EV 14:30. Penalties (total): Wisconsin 2-4 (3-6), Notre Dame 1-2 (1-2).

Third Period—Scoring: 3. Wisconsin, Zach Urdahl 4 (Sam Stange) EV 5:57. Penalties (total): Wisconsin 2-4 (5-10), Notre Dame 0-0 (1-2).

Shots on goal: Wisconsin 27 (11-11-5), Notre Dame 50 (20-16-14). Goalie saves: Wisconsin, Jared Moe 49 (20-15-14), Notre Dame, Matthew Galajda 24 (10-10-4).

Power-play opportunities: Wisconsin 0 of 1, Notre Dame 1 of 5. Faceoffs won: Wisconsin 29 (10-11-8), Notre Dame 40 (13-14-13). Blocked shots: Wisconsin 18 (1-6-11), Notre Dame 9 (1-5-3).

Referees: Barry Pochmara and Tony Czech. Linesmen: Bill Hancock and Jonathan Sladek. Attendance: 3,634 (4,850).

Records: Notre Dame 25-10, Wisconsin 10-22-3.

BIG TEN POSTSEASON TOURNAMENT

Quarterfinals / Best-of-three series

Number in parentheses is seed from regular season

Friday, March 4

(6) Wisconsin 3, (3) Notre Dame 1. Wisconsin leads best-of-3 series, 1-0.

(2) Michigan 4, (7) Michigan State 1. Michigan leads best-of-3 series, 1-0.

(4) Ohio State 4, (5) Penn State 3. Ohio State leads best-of-3 series, 1-0.

Saturday, March 5

(6) Wisconsin (10-22-3) at (3) Notre Dame (25-10-0), 6 p.m. (Big Ten+)

(7) Michigan State (12-22-1) at (2) Michigan (26-9-1), 7 p.m. (Bally Sports Detroit)

(5) Penn State (15-19-1) at (4) Ohio State (22-11-2), 7 p.m. (Big Ten+)

Sunday, March 6 (if necessary)

(6) Wisconsin at (3) Notre Dame, 6 p.m. (Big Ten+)

(7) Michigan State at (2) Michigan, 7 p.m. (FS2)

(5) Penn State at (4) Ohio State, 8 p.m. (Big Ten+)

Semifinals / Single-game elimination

Saturday, March 12

Lowest remaining seed at (1) Minnesota (23-11-0)

Second lowest remaining seed at Second highest remaining seed

Championship / Single-game elimination

Saturday, March 19

Lowest remaining seed at Highest remaining seed