Wisconsin talent takes advantage of Notre Dame mistakes for 6-4 hockey win

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — With all the firepower and talent it has, you would think that Wisconsin would be fighting for the Big Ten Conference hockey lead instead of trying to escape the seven-team league’s cellar.

Skating three first-round NHL picks from the last two drafts, Tony Granato’s Badgers (10-12-1, 5-9-1-1 Big Ten) got three goals from freshman Cole Caufield, a 5-foot-7 right wing picked 15th overall last summer by the Montreal Canadiens while overcoming an early 2-0 Notre Dame lead. The Badgers then took advantage of Notre Dame’s poor play and a cold night by goalie Cale Morris for a 6-4 victory Friday night before a sellout crowd of 4,895 at the Lefty Smith Rink in the Compton Family Ice Arena.

The Irish wasted a three-point night by Colin Theisen (goal, two assists) and the end of scoring droughts by senior Mike O’Leary and Cal Burke. It was the first time this season Notre Dame scored four goals and lost. They came into the game 9-0-1 this season when scoring at least three times.

“This team is an enigma to me,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said after his team, which started the season 7-0-1, fell to 10-11-4 overall, 5-7-3-2 in the Big Ten. “They keep fighting, they’re good on the bench. I felt like we had some momentum after Burke’s goal. We just have to find a way to finish.”

The Irish, who are now just three points ahead of the Badgers, also have to stop making youthful mistakes.

“We can’t be in that position to give up five goals (in a span of 24:34 from the end of the first period and the beginning of the third),” Jackson added. “That’s where it starts. We’re doing some good stuff and then we self-destruct. We have to eliminate the bonehead mistakes. We can’t give up five goals in 23 shots.”

The Irish coach pulled his senior goaltender Morris after he surrendered a power-play goal to Max Zimmer that gave Wisconsin a 5-3 lead at 3:18 of the third period. Freshman Ryan Bischel made three saves in place of Morris, who stopped 19. Wisconsin goalie Jack Berry finished with 29 saves, 15 in the final period as Notre Dame outshot Wisconsin 16-5 in the final 20 minutes.

“Cale has to be better, in my opinion,” said Jackson, whose team will try for a weekend split Saturday night at 6.

Morris seemed to be on top of his game early when he stopped a breakaway by Wisconsin’s Roman Ahcan with the Irish on an early power play. The Irish then killed off a Wisconsin power play and then dominated play. O’Leary got two shots off at Berry, who saved them both at 11:20.

A little over a minute later, Theisen retrieved a puck behind the Badger net and beat three Badgers as Graham skated into the slot and got off a quick shot to beat Berry at 12:25. It was only the second goal of the season for Graham, who missed seven games earlier with an injury, but it was the sophomore’s seventh in two seasons against the Badgers.

A little over two minutes later, the Irish made it 2-0 with Theisen, after a pass from Spencer Stastney, skating around and finding O’Leary unguarded in the faceoff circle for a quick shot and goal at 14:34. The goal broke a 10-game scoring drought for O’Leary.

The Badgers came alive late when Graham Slaggert was knocked off the puck at the Wisconsin blueline by Caufield, who picked up the puck and skated around the Irish defense to beat Morris for his 14th goal of the season at 18:44.

The Badgers tied it at 2-all just 1:19 into the second period after the Irish got careless in the neutral zone. Wisconsin’s three first-round NHL draft picks figured in the score as K’Andre Miller (New York Rangers) fed the puck to Alex Turcotte (Los Angeles Kinds) going across the blueline, and Turcotte fed it to Caufield (Montreal Canadiens) for a quick wrister that beat Morris.

Notre Dame regained the lead when Theisen pounced on a loose puck in the crease and scored at 13:09 when Berry couldn’t control O’Leary’s shot.

But the game changed at 14:30 when Notre Dame defenseman Charlie Raith and Wisconsin forward Ryder Donovan exchanged slashes. Wisconsin forward Tarek Baker came to his teammate’s aid and was called for roughing as the melee continued. After a lengthy review, Raith received a five-minute major and game misconduct for grabbing a facemask, resulting eventually in a 4-on-3 Wisconsin power play of three minutes.

The Badgers tied it at 3-3 when Ty Pelton-Byce scored at 15:36 and then Caufield completed his hat trick at 17:00 on the power play to give Wisconsin a 4-3 lead going into the second-period intermission.

Wisconsin got another power-play opportunity when Notre Dame’s Matt Hellickson was penalized for goalie interference at 1:35, and the Badgers converted when Zimmer’s quick wrister beat Morris at 3:18, ending the Irish goalie’s night.

The Badgers’ Ty Emberson then got a five-minute major and game misconduct for contact to the head of Notre Dame’s Cam Morrison at 10:21. The Irish cut the deficit to one when Bischel dumped a pass to Hellickson whose long pass broke Cal Burke in behind the Wisconsin defense. The Irish captain then ended a 20-game scoring drought with his goal at 12:52, his fifth of the season.

Wisconsin’s Wyatt Kalynuk put a rink-length clearing effort into the vacated net at 19:14 for the final goal of the game.


At Lefty Smith Rink, South Bend


Notre Dame;2;1;1—4

First Period—Scoring: 1. Notre Dame, Michael Graham 2 (Colin Theisen, Nate Clurman) EV 12:25; 2. Notre Dame, Mike O’Leary 8 (Colin Theisen, Spencer Stastney) EV 14:34; 3. Wisconsin, Cole Caufield 14 (unassisted) EV 18:44. Penalties: Wisconsin 1-2; Notre Dame 1-2.

Second Period—Scoring: 4. Wisconsin, Cole Caufield 15 (Alex Turcotte, K’Andre Miller) EV 1:19; 5. Notre Dame, Colin Theisen 6 (Mike O’Leary, Spencer Stastney) EV 13:09; 6. Wisconsin, Ty Pelton-Byce 6 (Sean Dhooghe, Jack Berry) EV 15:36; 7. Wisconsin, Cole Caufield 16 (Wyatt Kalynuk, Linus Weissbach) PP 17:00. Penalties (total): Wisconsin 3-6 (4-8); Notre Dame 4-19 (5-21).

Third Period—Scoring: 8. Wisconsin, Max Zimmer 1 (K’Andre Miller, Ty Pelton-Byce) PP 3:18; 9. Notre Dame, Cal Burke 5 (Matt Hellickson, Ryan Bischel) PP 12:52; 10. Wisconsin, Wyatt Kalynuk 5 (unassisted) EN 19:14. Penalties (total): Wisconsin 3-17 (7-25); Notre Dame 1-2 (6-23).

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

Faceoffs won—Wisconsin 26 (10-5-11), Notre Dame 26 (7-6-13).

Blocked shots—Wisconsin 16 (4-3-9), Notre Dame 17 (7-6-4).

Shots on goal—Wisconsin 28 (10-13-5), Notre Dame 33 (7-10-16).

Goalie saves—Wisconsin, Jack Berry 29 (5-9-15), Notre Dame, Cale Morris 19 (9-10-0) and Ryan Bischel 3 (0-0-3).

Records—Wisconsin 10-12-1 (5-9-1-1 Big Ten), Notre Dame 10-11-4 (5-7-3-2 Big Ten).

A—4,895 (4,850).

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