Wegwerth's goal provides Jackson with 300th Irish victory, 2-1 over Ohio State

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — It took four attempts but the fifth-ranked Notre Dame hockey team finally found enough charm to give coach Jeff Jackson his 300th victory at Notre Dame Saturday night.

Senior left wing Joe Wegwerth’s unassisted goal at 13:48 of the third period provided Jackson and the Irish a 2-1 victory and a weekend split of their Big Ten Conference series with Ohio State on the Lefty Smith Rink at the Compton Family Ice Arena.

“Nobody deserves it more than him,” the 6-foot-3, 227-pound Wegwerth said after his game-winner, his fifth goal of the season. “The guy pours his entire life into this program. To be coached by someone like him who has done so much for Notre Dame and college hockey, this is a game I will never forget.”

Jackson is in his 14th season at Notre Dame, and his 300th victory leaves him seven short of tying Smith, who had 307 wins in 19 seasons from 1968 to 1987.

“I don’t know if I will remember it,” joked Jackson, who shook hands with each member of his team on the bench after receiving an ovation from the 4,165 fans in attendance. “For me it’s about the ride — it’s been such a great one here at Notre Dame. I had a great experience up at Lake (Superior) State (where he coached two NCAA title teams). But this experience (Jackson has taken four Irish teams to the Frozen Four and finished runner-up twice) has been even better.”

Wegwerth’s game-winner came after he intercepted an Ohio State clearing pass, skated down the slot and wristed the puck past Ohio State goalie Tommy Nappier, who had 36 saves.

“I did my best not to rush it,” Wegwerth said. “The other (Ohio State) guys went to (linemates) Dylan (Malmquist) and Cal (Burke) so I could walk in as much as I wanted. I took a quick look at the net and knew where I wanted to go with it. (The victory) feels good for the group and hopefully we can build on it.”

The Irish, 4-3-1 overall and 1-1-0 in the Big Ten, visit Michigan Friday and Saturday for league games at 7:30 both nights. No. 7 Ohio State (4-3-1, 1-1-0 Big Ten) visits non-league Colgate.

Sophomore right wing Colin Theisen tied the game for Notre Dame at 11:58 of the middle session after Mason Jobst opened the scoring at 3:25 of the period. Junior goalie Cale Morris made 38 save.

The Buckeyes, who made Jobst’s first-period, power-play goal at 8:59 stand up in a 1-0 victory Friday, and the Irish each had 13 shots on goal in a scoreless first period.

The Irish got a power-play opportunity 24 seconds into the game when Ohio State’s Sasha Larocque was whistled for interference. Nappier turned aside shots by Burke and Wegwerth before the penalty ended.

Nappier made another stop on Theisen shortly afterward and the Irish attack then took a hiatus for 11 minutes as Ohio State used a too-many-men penalty against Notre Dame at 5:40 to get itself going. Morris made three saves and freshman penalty-killer Graham Slaggert blocked two other shots.

After the penalty ended, Morris made five more saves, including one on the doorstep by Miguel Fidler at 8:25, before Bobby Nardella got the Irish offense going again in the 14th minute. The Irish outshot the Buckeyes 8-4 the rest of the period.

The Irish came out sluggish to start the second period and Jobst and linemates Freddy Gerard and Carson Meyer made them pay at 3:25.

Notre Dame could not control the puck at its own blueline, and the Buckeyes got a quick 3-on-1 break, with Jobst finishing the play with a 15-foot wrist shot over Morris’ glove (left) hand at 3:25. Gerard and Meyer got assists as the Buckeyes outshot the Irish 8-1 in the first 5:19 of the period.

Morris kept his teammates in it with 13 saves until the Irish finally ended their long goal-scoring drought — 117 minutes and 15 seconds stretching back to the 3-1 loss to Minnesota Duluth a week ago Saturday.

The goal play started with Cam Morrison taking a feed from freshman Jake Pivonka inside the Ohio State zone and down the left boards. He moved in on Nappier for a 2-on-1 break with Theisen, who got a nifty cross-ice pass and wristed the puck home at 11:58.