Stastney sets up Janicke’s winner in final minute, No. 7 Irish icers survive to even series

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND – With Notre Dame’s Big Ten Postseason Tournament hopes on life support Saturday night, senior defenseman Spencer Stastney came to the rescue of the third-seeded Fighting Irish against upset-minded Wisconsin at the Lefty Smith Rink in the Compton Family Ice Arena.

Needing a victory to force a Game 3 in the best-of-three quarterfinal series and a looming overtime just seconds away, Stastney skated into the Wisconsin goal and set up behind Badger goalie Jared Moe before patiently delivering a pass on the doorstep to teammate Trevor Janicke, who found the back of the net with 20 seconds remaining to give the No. 7 Irish a 3-2 victory over the sixth-seeded Badgers before 3,738 fans.

The victory in the penalty-marred game – there were 13 penalties totaling 45 minutes dished out – lifted coach Jeff Jackson’s Irish (26-10-0) over coach Tony Granato’s stubborn Badgers (10-23-3), who won Friday’s series opener 3-1 and rallied Saturday from an early 2-0 deficit and seemed in control.

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

► More:Graham Slaggert scoring big goals on and off ice as No. 7 Notre Dame enters Big Ten tourney

It means the two long-time hockey rivals will meet Sunday at 6 p.m. at Compton, with the winner advancing to play in the Big Ten semifinals next Saturday night. If Wisconsin prevails, it will travel to regular-season champion Minnesota, which beat the Badgers 5-0 and 8-0 last weekend. If Notre Dame wins Sunday, it will travel to Michigan to play the Wolverines for the fifth time this season with four victories over Michigan already on its NCAA résumé.

“A lot of guys stepped up and did some good things for us,” Jackson said. “But Spencer, he’s the guy in game-winning situations you want on the ice.”

Stastney, who hails from the Milwaukee suburb of Mequon, about a 90-mile trip to the Wisconsin campus in Madison, took a faceoff win by Graham Slaggert in the final 30 seconds, skated into the Wisconsin zone and was left unchecked behind the Wisconsin goal. Janicke maneuvered himself into position, and Stastney then delivered a pass that the junior right wing hammered home for his 14th goal of the season.

It was the 20th assist of the season for Stastney, who now has seven goals and 27 points, also season bests. Since Jan. 1, the 5-foot-11, 192-pound Stastney has five goals and 13 assists in 19 games, 14 of which have been Irish victories.

Notre Dame defenseman Spencer Stastney (24) skaters with the puck during the Notre Dame-Michigan Big Ten  hockey game on Friday, February 25, 2022, at Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend, Indiana.

Fellow senior Graham Slaggert, who had the only Irish goal in Friday’s loss, got the Irish started at 1:41 of the first period with a power-play goal and then picked up an assist by winning the faceoff, one of 46 won by the Irish to 17 by Wisconsin. Slaggert finished 13-6 (68.4 percent) on his faceoff draws, trailing Jake Pivonka’s 18-2 (90 percent). 

Sophomore defenseman Zach Plucinski, returning after an injury absence of five games, gave Notre Dame a 2-0 lead at 16:07 of the first period after assists from Pivonka and Nick Leivermann.

Notre Dame’s seven penalties during the game yielded two Wisconsin power-play goals – Roman Ahcan’s fifth goal of the season at 9:53 of the second period and Carson Bantle’s eighth of the season at 3:23 of the third period, 13 seconds before a five-minute major to Slaggert’s sophomore brother Landon expired. Wisconsin’s Mathieu De St. Phalle assisted on both goals.

“Too many penalties gave them too many opportunities on the power play,” Jackson said after his team killed five of seven chances while managing one power-play goal in its five opportunities. “It could have cost us the game, especially missing Landon at the end of the game. Penalties change the momentum of games. They get you out of rhythm.”

So does playing a goalie like Moe, who had 49 saves in Wisconsin’s Friday win and 30 more on Saturday, including 16 in the final period before Stastney and Janicke finally solved him. Granato pulled Moe for an extra attacker against Notre Dame graduate-transfer (Cornell) goalie Matthew Galajda, who had 12 saves in the third period and 34 for the game. Notre Dame blocked two shots in the final seconds and finished with 25, seven more than Wisconsin.

The Irish wasted little time getting on top of the Badgers, who were coming off a 3-1 victory that was particularly frustrating in more ways than just the final score for the Irish. Notre Dame had 50 shots at Moe, who turned away 49 of them, and the Irish had another 18 shots blocked by the Badgers.

Brock Caufield, who scored the opening goal for the Badgers Friday night, got a good look at the Irish net, but Galajda’s left glove hand quickly speared the attempt and 11 seconds later Wisconsin’s Ryder Donovan started the march by both teams to the penalty box.

 Graham Slaggert scored 25 seconds after Donovan went to the box for cross checking, skating into the faceoff circle and whistling a shot past Moe, who was screened by Landon Slaggert. Ryder Rolston and Landon Slaggert assisted on the power-goal at 1:41.

Notre Dame killed off a 5-on-3 of 33 seconds and two penalties totaling 3:28 with three saves by Galajda and six blocked shots later in the period.

Notre Dame made it 2-0 with the teams skating four aside when Nick Leivermann made a long pass to a wide-open Jake Pivonka, who directed a quick pass to defenseman Zach Plucinski for a 30-foot wrister that beat Moe at 16:07.

Galajda finished the period with 14 saves and his teammates blocked another 13 shots.

The penalties continued in the second period, and the Badgers took advantage of a holding call against defenseman Jake Boltmann that put them on the power play at 9:15. Galajda made two saves before the Irish couldn’t get control of the puck and Mathieu De St. Phalle fed Roman Ahcan for a quick wrister at 9:53 to cut the Irish lead to 2-1.

Late in the period, Landon Slaggert made contact with the head of Wisconsin freshman defenseman Corson Ceulemans just outside the Irish zone. The play was reviewed while Ceulemans was tended to by the Wisconsin trainer, and Slaggert received a five-minute major and game misconduct.

The Badgers tied the game at 3:23 on Bantle’s goal from in close, and Moe and Wisconsin seemed to have momentum going their way until Stastney and Janicke delivered at the end.

NOTRE DAME 3, WISCONSIN 2

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

Wisconsin | 0 | 1 | 1—2

Notre Dame | 2 | 0 | 1—3 

First Period—Scoring: 1. Notre Dame, Graham Slaggert 11 (Landon Slaggert, Ryder Rolston) PP 1:41. 2. Notre Dame, Zach Plucinski 2 (Jake Pivonka, Nick Leivermann) EV 16:07. Penalties: Wisconsin 3-6, Notre Dame 4-8.

Second Period—Scoring: 3. Wisconsin, Roman Ahcan 5 (Mathieu De St. Phalle, Corson Ceulemans) PP 9:53. Penalties (total): Wisconsin 1-2 (4-8), Notre Dame 3-17 (7-25).

Third Period—Scoring: 4. Wisconsin, Carson Bantle 8 (Brock Caufield, Mathieu De St. Phalle) PP 3:23. 5. Notre Dame, Trevor Janicke 14 (Spencer Stastney, Graham Slaggert) EV 19:40. Penalties (total): Wisconsin 2-12 (6-20), Notre Dame 0-0 (7-25).

Shots on goal: Wisconsin 36 (14-9-13), Notre Dame 33 (7-9-17). Goalie saves: Wisconsin, Jared Moe 30 (5-9-16), Notre Dame, Matthew Galajda 34 (14-8-12).

 Power-play opportunities: Wisconsin 2 of 7, Notre Dame 1 of 5. Faceoffs won: Wisconsin 17 (7-5-5), Notre Dame 46 (16-11-19). Blocked shots: Wisconsin 18 (0-9-9), Notre Dame 25 (13-4-8).

Referees: Barry Pochmara and Tony Czech. Linesmen: Bill Hancock and Jonathan Sladek. Attendance: 3,738 (4,850).

Records: Notre Dame 26-10, Wisconsin 10-23-3.

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

(3) Notre Dame 3, (6) Wisconsin 2. Series tied 1-1.

(5) Penn State 3, (4) Ohio State 2. Series tied 1-1.

(2) Michigan 8, (7) Michigan State 0. Michigan wins series 2-0.

Sunday, March 6

(6) Wisconsin (10-23-3) at (3) Notre Dame (26-10-0), 6 p.m. (Big Ten+)

(5) Penn State (16-19-1) at (4) Ohio State (22-12-2), 8 p.m. (Big Ten+)

Semifinals / Single-game elimination

Saturday, March 12

(1) Minnesota (23-11-0) and (2) Michigan (27-9-1) have advanced and will host one-game playoff

Championship / Single-game elimination

Saturday, March 19

Lowest remaining seed at Highest remaining seed