Irish make another point on Stastney’s 'non'-goal following 2-2 tie

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent

CHICAGO — Freshman defenseman Spencer Stastney’s first collegiate goal won’t count in the official scoring, but it got a very big point for No. 12 Notre Dame’s hockey team Sunday night at the United Center.

The Irish and Wisconsin Badgers concluded their weekend Big Ten Conference series with a 2-2 overtime tie in front of 5,031 in the home of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks.

Stastney’s 25-foot blast with the 3-on-3 overtime period winding down beat Wisconsin goalie Jack Berry and provided coach Jeff Jackson’s team an extra point in the standings.

The injury-plagued Irish picked up five key points in the road series that started with a 6-4 victory at Madison Friday night before shifting to Chicago.

Notre Dame is 13-8-2 overall and 6-6-1-1 in the Big Ten, good for 20 points, one behind second-place Minnesota and nine behind league-leader Ohio State. But just four points separate the Gophers from coach Tony Granato’s Badgers (8-10-4, 4-4-4-1 Big Ten), who are tied for sixth in the seven-team league with Penn State.

For the second straight game, freshman right wing Michael Graham scored two goals — his fourth and fifth of the season — in Notre Dame’s reshuffled lineup necessitated by injuries to leading goal scorers Cal Burke (appendectomy), Cam Morrison (upper-body injury) and Joe Wegwerth (season-ending knee surgery).

Junior goaltender Cale Morris made 32 saves, including 19 in the second period (he “stopped” another in the 3-on-3 period). Berry made 26.

Wisconsin jumped out to a 1-0 lead when a defensive mix-up left Dominick Mersch with the puck to Morris’ left, and the Badger freshman center wristed a shot past the Irish goalie’s glove at 6:25.

Mersch then was whistled for interference at 17:44 and Graham capped off the resulting power play when he took a feed from Mike O’Leary to the right of a wide-open net at 18:19 and buried it. Bobby Nardella also received an assist.

But a weird bounce off the backboards allowed the Badgers to take a 2-1 lead after the first period.

Freshman left wing Roman Ahcan pounced on the loose puck and flipped a backhander over Morris’ shoulder with a half-second remaining before the intermission.

The Badgers were outshooting the Irish 12-3 in the first 10 minutes of the second period when Matt Hellickson’s long pass broke Graham in all alone on Berry. Graham deked the Badger goalie down and deposited a backhander into the net at 10:35 to tie the game at 2.

Late in the period, Wisconsin’s Will Johnson and Morris chased after a loose puck in the Irish zone, and a diving Morris tried to steer the puck away from the Badger. It ended up on Johnson’s stick but before the right wing could whistle it at the vacated net, Hellickson poked the puck away.

Both teams had power-play chances in the scoreless third period, sending the Irish into their first overtime league game this season.

The Irish killed off Jake Pivonka’s tripping penalty with 13 seconds remaining in the first five-minute overtime that carried over into the second period as a 4-on-3 advantage for Wisconsin. The first stoppage after Pivonka’s penalty expired, the teams then skated 3-on-3.

Stastney’s point-winner was set up by Pivonka and Alex Steeves at 2:57 of the 3-on-3 period. But like Stastney’s “goal,” they won’t get assists in the official scoring book.

As far as Jackson and the rest of the Irish are concerned, they made a big point.

Notre Dame returns home Friday and Saturday evenings to play Michigan State, which completed a two-game sweep of visiting Minnesota with a second straight 5-3 victory earlier Sunday.

NOTRE DAME 2, WISCONSIN 2 (OT) (ND wins 3-on-3)

United Center, Chicago

Notre Dame;1;1;0;0—2


First Period—Scoring: 1. Dominick Mersch 1 (Jack Gorniak, Sean Dhooghe) 6:25; 2. Notre Dame, Michael Graham 4 (Mike O’Leary, Bobby Nardella) 18:29; 3. Wisconsin, Roman Ahcan 3 (Brock Caufield, Tyler Inamoto) 19:59. Penalties: Notre Dame 2-4, Wisconsin 1-2.

Second Period—Scoring: 4. Notre Dame, Michael Graham 5 (Matt Hellickson) 10:35. Penalties (total): Notre Dame 2-4 (4-8), Wisconsin 1-2 (2-4).

Third Period—Scoring: None. Penalties (total): Notre Dame 1-2 (5-10), Wisconsin 1-2 (3-6).

Overtime—Scoring: None. Penalties (total): Notre Dame 1-2 (6-12), Wisconsin 0-0 (3-6).

(3-on-3 overtime: Scoring: Notre Dame, Spencer Stastney (Jake Pivonka, Alex Steeves) 2:57.)

Power-play opportunities: Notre Dame 1 of 2, Wisconsin 0 of 5.

Shots on goal—Notre Dame 9-8-9-2—28; Wisconsin 5-19-8-2—34.

Goalie saves—Notre Dame, Cale Morris 3-19-8-2—32; Wisconsin, Jack Berry 8-7-9-2—26.

A: 5,031.

Records: Notre Dame 13-8-2, 6-6-1-1 Big Ten; Wisconsin 8-10-4, 4-4-4-1 Big Ten.