Inspired Wisconsin ends Notre Dame hockey streak at 16

Tribune Staff Report
ND Insider

When the puck dropped Sunday afternoon at the United Center in Chicago, the top-ranked Notre Dame hockey team had gone 87 days without tasting defeat.

Leave it to long-time bitter rival Wisconsin to serve up a meal that coach Jeff Jackson’s Irish could not digest.

Five different Badgers scored, sophomore goalie Jack Berry made 40 saves and 18th-ranked Wisconsin skated to a 5-0 Big Ten Conference victory to end Notre Dame’s 16-game winning streak before a crowd of 9,313.

Last losing 6-4 to Nebraska-Omaha on Oct. 26 at home, the 19-4-1 Irish suffered their first loss as an affiliate member of the Big Ten. They were the first league team to win their first 13 conference contests of the season.

About the only thing that remained status quo after the loss was Notre Dame’s 14-point lead over second-place Ohio State, which was idle.

"They wanted it more than we did tonight,” Jackson said. “We’ll be facing that the rest of the way — teams with that kind of intensity level.”

After suffering a 4-2 Friday night loss before a record-crowd of 5,630 on the Lefty Smith Rink in the Compton Family Ice Arena, an inspired Wisconsin team improved to 12-12-3 overall and 5-8-2 in the Big Ten for a fifth-place tie with Minnesota.

The Badgers played with heavy hearts, learning prior to the game that Badgers alumnus Jim Johannson, the general manager of the 2018 U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team, passed away in his sleep at his home in Colorado Springs, Colo., at age 53.

Johannson played at Wisconsin from 1982-86 and was a teammate of current Badgers coach Tony Granato, who will coach the U.S. team at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

“I am deeply saddened and shocked and sorry that he is no longer with us,” Granato tweeted before the game.

Jackson also tweeted: “Words can’t even describe what the loss of JJ means. It was an honor to work with him on so many occasions.”

The Badgers wore a sticker with “JJ” on their helmets.

Wyatt Kalynuk opened the scoring for Wisconsin at 15:07 of the first period.

Trent Frederic gave Wisconsin a 2-0 lead when he scored a shorthanded goal at 14:05 of the second period and Seamus Malone added a power-play tally at 19:11 to make it 3-0 after two periods.

The Badgers scored twice in the final 37 seconds of regulation. First Linus Weissbach scored on a power play at 19:23. Then Sean Dhooghe, who earlier had two assists, beat Irish goalie Cale Morris on a breakaway at 19:53.

Morris, who had backstopped the Irish in every victory in the streak, finished with 41 saves but saw his record fall to 18-2. During the 16-game winning streak, the Irish sophomore goalie had stopped 619 of 648 shots, a .955 save percentage.

“I thought that we were doing OK, but that shorthanded goal pretty much changed the whole game,” Jackson added. “Our special teams in total have been great for us, for the most part, especially in the penalty kill. But tonight they took advantage of opportunities on special teams which makes a huge difference.”

Notre Dame went 0-for-5 on the power play and Wisconsin was 2-for-6.

The streak, which started with a 5-4 victory over Omaha on Oct. 27, included a first-ever Irish sweep in Madison on Dec. 8 (3-2) and 9 (6-2). Since the 1993-94 season, Notre Dame was just one of three schools to have won 16 or more straight, joining the 2011-12 Boston College (19 wins) and 2016-17 Harvard (16) teams.

The game in the United Center, home of the NHL Chicago Blackhawks, was statistically a home game for the Irish, who gave up the second game of home series with the Badgers, who next season will surrender one of their home games against the Irish to play in Chicago. Notre Dame is 10-4-1 in “home” contests. But it was Notre Dame’s first loss away from home after a 9-0 start in “road” contests.

Notre Dame has road hockey series the next two weekends at Big Ten rivals Minnesota (Jan. 26-27) and Penn State (Feb. 2-3) before returning to the Compton Family Ice Arena to play host to Ohio State (Feb. 9-10).

Notre Dame's Colin Theisen chases down a puck during Sunday's game against Wisconsin at the United Center in Chicago.Photo Provided/DAN RICKS