Slaggert brothers, Galajda skate No. 7 Irish past Badgers into Big Ten semifinals

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — South Bend natives Graham and Landon Slaggert have been working on give-and-go hockey plays since they were youngsters in the family basement.

Sunday in what could have been senior tri-captain Graham’s last game ever at the Lefty Smith Rink in the Compton Family Ice Arena, the sons of Notre Dame associate head coach Andy Slaggert and wife Tara did it one more time to give Jeff Jackson’s Fighting Irish a two-goal lead they would never relinquish in eliminating Wisconsin in the third game of their best-of-three quarterfinal series in the Big Ten Tournament.

Grad-transfer Jack Adams got the Irish started at 11:22 of the first period and Landon Slaggert, off a feed from Graham, scored at 14:14 as No. 7 Notre Dame skated to a 4-2 victory over the Badgers before 2,612. Graham Slaggert also assisted on linemate Trevor Janicke’s empty-net goal at 19:19 that sealed the triumph.

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

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

“We’ve been doing that since we played mini-sticks,” Landon said. “We’ve got good chemistry. I’m so fortunate to play on the same line with him. We shared some tears after the game when he realized it could be his last game in Compton. It definitely hit us a little bit with Mom and Dad both there. It was so special.”

Considering it concluded a weekend in which Notre Dame fell 3-1 in the opening game Friday but then won 3-2 Saturday after Landon was given a five-minute major and game misconduct for a hit to the head of defenseman Corson Ceulemans and saw Trevor Janicke’s game-winner with 20 seconds remaining inside the Irish locker room.

Notre Dame players celebrate goal by Notre Dame's Jake Pivonka during the Wisconsin-Notre Dame Big Ten hockey tournament game on Sunday, March 06, 2022, at Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend, Indiana.

It was a special night, too, for senior tri-captain Jake Pivonka, who scored his first goal of the year after coming back from summer surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon. Pivonka scored at 1:55 of the second period to provide the Irish a 3-1 cushion and grad-transfer goalie Matthew Galajda made 24 saves while the Irish blocked another 21 shots. Sam Stange and Daniel Laatsch scored for Wisconsin, which got another steady performance from junior goalie Jared Moe, who turned aside 29 other Irish shots. Defensemen Spencer Stastney and Jake Boltmann each had five blocks for the Irish, who need to heal some wounds before taking on Michigan.

 “Anytime you lose the first game (as the Irish did 3-1 Friday), it’s always a challenge,” Jackson said. “It takes character to do it. Give Wisconsin their due – they made it a tough, tough series on us. Moe was lights-out all weekend, but Matt played really well, too, this weekend.”

It was Notre Dame’s first postseason playoff series triumph ever over Wisconsin, which concluded its sixth season under coach Tony Granato, a former Badger and NHL player and coach, at 10-24-3. The two programs twice met in two-game, total-goal series while members of the old Western Collegiate Hockey Association, and Bob Johnson’s Badgers won both over Lefty Smith’s Irish: 8-7 in South Bend during the 1972-73 season on their way to their first NCAA championship and 16-7 in the 1978-79 campaign.

Notre Dame's Matthew Galajda makes the save as Notre Dame's Nick Leivermann and Wisconsin's Caden Brown battle in the crease during the Wisconsin-Notre Dame Big Ten hockey tournament game on Sunday, March 06, 2022, at Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend, Indiana.

The victory by the Irish (27-10-0) sends them Saturday to Michigan to face the powerfully deep and talented Wolverines (27-9-1), who lost all four games this season to Notre Dame, including 4-1 and 2-1 decisions Feb. 25-26 at Compton to close out the regular season. Michigan is coming off a quarterfinal sweep of Michigan State, 4-1 and 8-0. The one-game semifinal is scheduled to face off at 6:30 p.m. at the Yost Ice Arena, with the winner advancing to the championship game on Saturday, March 19.

“We’ve got to play our game and I’m going to focus on us improving certain parts of our game,” Jackson said. “Right now, it’s important we get a day or two off here mentally and physically. We’ve got a lot of guys, as you would expect in this type of hockey who are dinged up and bruised. It’s important we get ready to play a team like Michigan which could be the top team in the country.”

Notre Dame's Graham Slaggert skates for the puck during the Wisconsin-Notre Dame Big Ten hockey tournament game on Sunday, March 06, 2022, at Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend, Indiana.

Sunday, the Irish dominated the first half of the first period with six shots at Moe while Galajda went untested. They took a 1-0 lead on their eighth shot on goal, a shot along the goal line by Adams that hit off Moe and went behind him at 11:22. Freshman center Hunter Strand and senior defenseman Nick Leivermann got assists.

Wisconsin finally got a shot on goal by Brock Caufield at 12:42 that Galajda easily gloved.

Then the Irish received a power play when Wisconsin center Sam Stange boarded Strand in front of the Badgers’ bench at 13:31. Forty seconds later, the Slaggert brothers played give-and-go, with Landon taking up residence to Moe’s right to receive Graham’s return pass. Landon then reversed himself and slid the puck between Moe’s pads at 14:14.

But Stange made it up for his penalty at 16:01 when he whistled a wrister over Galajda’s left shoulder and the Badgers closed out the first period on a 5-1 shot advance in the final six minutes.

Pivonka missed the season’s first 15 games recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered during the summer and entering the game goal-less on 32 shots. Pivonka, who has won more than 60 percent of his faceoffs this season, took a pass from Jesse Lansdell and wristed the puck over Moe’s glove to make it 3-1 at 1:55 of the second period.

Notre Dame's Cam Burke and Wisconsin's Corson Ceulemans battle for the puck during the Wisconsin-Notre Dame Big Ten hockey tournament game on Sunday, March 06, 2022, at Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend, Indiana.

But the Badgers refused to go away. Moe kept the Irish scoreless for the next 13½ minutes as Wisconsin got its offensive legs. Leivermann kept a shot by Mathieu De St. Phalle from crossing the goal line at 11:30, and Jackson called a timeout to get his team some rest at 15:13.

Nine seconds after play resumed, 6-foot-5 freshman defenseman Laatsch intercepted Jake Boltmann’s clearing attempt and sent a bouncing shot through the slot past a screen Galajda to cut the Irish lead to 3-2 at 15:22. That’s how the teams went to their locker rooms after a second period during which Notre Dame outshot Wisconsin 17-12. Moe, who had 49 saves in Friday’s 3-1 victory, had 24 saves to Galajda’s 15 after the first 40 minutes.

In the third period, Wisconsin outshot Notre Dame 6-0 in the first 10 minutes before Cam Burke got one on Moe at 10:33. The Badger goalie then stopped a Leivermann blast and teammate Tyler Inamoto blocked Landon Slaggert’s rebound at 12 minutes.

Landon Slaggert then took a feed from Trevor Janicke, who scored Saturday’s game-winning goal with 20 seconds remaining for a 3-2 Irish triumph, in alone on Moe, deked the Wisconsin goalie – and hit the post at 14:52.

Granato pulled Moe for a sixth attacker at 18:38, and the Badgers pressured before Janicke got control of the puck, skated out of the defensive zone and fired a mid-ice shot into the vacated net at 19:19.

NOTRE DAME 4, WISCONSIN 2

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

Wisconsin | 1 | 1 | 0—2

Notre Dame | 2 | 1 | 1—4

First Period—Scoring: 1. Notre Dame, Jack Adams 5 (Hunter Strand, Nick Leivermann) EV 11:22. 2. Notre Dame, Landon Slaggert 11 (Graham Slaggert, Trevor Janicke) PP 14:14. 3. Wisconsin, Sam Stange 4 (Liam Malmquist, Jack Gorniak) EV 16:01. Penalties: Wisconsin 1-2, Notre Dame 0-0.

Second Period—Scoring: 4. Notre Dame, Jake Pivonka 1 (Jesse Lansdell, Adam Karashik) EV 1:55. 5. Wisconsin, Daniel Laatsch 1 (Roman Ahcan, Dominick Mersch) EV 15:22. Penalties (total): Wisconsin 2-4 (3-6), Notre Dame 1-2 (1-2).

Third Period—Scoring: 3. Notre Dame, Trevor Janicke 15 (Graham Slaggert) EN 19:19. Penalties (total): Wisconsin 0-0 (3-6), Notre Dame 0-0 (1-2).

Shots on goal: Wisconsin 26 (5-12-9), Notre Dame 33 (10-17-6). Goalie saves: Wisconsin, Jared Moe 29 (8-16-5), Notre Dame, Matthew Galajda 24 (4-11-9).

Power-play opportunities: Wisconsin 0 of 1, Notre Dame 1 of 3. Faceoffs won: Wisconsin 21 (6-10-5), Notre Dame 34 (13-13-8). Blocked shots: Wisconsin 13 (3-7-3), Notre Dame 21 (4-12-5).

Referees: Barry Pochmara and Tony Czech. Linesmen: Bill Hancock and Jonathan Sladek. Attendance: 2,612 (4,850).

Records: Notre Dame 27-10, Wisconsin 10-24-3.

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

(2) Michigan 4, (7) Michigan State 1

(4) Ohio State 4, (5) Penn State 3

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

(3) Notre Dame 4, (6) Wisconsin 2. Notre Dame wins series 2-1.

(5) Penn State 2, (4) Ohio State 1. Penn State wins series 2-1.

Semifinals / Single-game elimination

Saturday, March 12

(3) Notre Dame (27-10-0) at (2) Michigan (27-9-1), 6:30 p.m. (BTN)

(5) Penn State (17-19-1) at (1) Minnesota (23-11-0), 9 p.m. (BTN)

Championship / Single-game elimination

Saturday, March 19

Lowest remaining seed at Highest remaining seed, TBD (BTN)