Chase Blackmun and No. 20 Notre Dame await Big Ten hockey rematch series with Wisconsin

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent
Notre Dame's Chase Blackmun (5) shoots during the Notre Dame vs. RIT NCAA hockey game Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021 at the Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend.

SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame’s hockey season has reached its home stretch with long-time nemesis Wisconsin coming to town.

With eight games remaining in the regular season before the Big Ten Tournament begins in early March, Wisconsin native and graduate defenseman Chase Blackmun knows the 20th-ranked Fighting Irish need to string some victories together if they hope to keep alive a streak of six straight NCAA tournament appearances.

“There have been a lot of ups and downs,” the 23-year-old Blackmun said of Notre Dame’s 11-12-3 season (6-8-2 Big Ten for 20 points) that has felt like a roller-coaster ride with eight straight series splits. “But at the same time, we have confidence we can pull this together and start going on a run. We haven’t hit our stride.”

More:Notre Dame suffers another first-night loss as Wisconsin wins 2-0

There’s no better time to start than this weekend against the 10-14-0 Badgers, who are just 3-11-0 in the Big Ten but beat No. 8 Ohio State 4-0 last Friday in Madison and earlier this season knocked off No. 7 Michigan 6-3. The Badgers’ other victory was goalie Jared Moe’s 2-0 shutout of the Irish on Jan. 6 in Madison that the Irish followed with a 6-4 victory the following night.

Over the years on the ice, Wisconsin has been a thorn in the Irish side with its 49-31-9 edge in the series. During the 1972-73 postseason, Bob Johnson’s Badgers earned an 8-7 triumph in a two-game, total-goal series with Lefty Smith’s Irish in the Joyce Center that sent Wisconsin to the NCAA Frozen Four in Boston where it won the first of its six NCAA championships. 

Last season, coach Tony Granato’s Badgers came to South Bend for the first round of the Big Ten Tournament and beat Notre Dame 3-1 before coach Jeff Jackson rallied his Irish to win the next two hard-fought games 3-2 and 4-2 to advance.

More:Notre Dame rebounds once again on second night to hold off Badgers

If there’s anyone on the Irish roster who sees red when the cardinal-and-white Badgers step on the ice, it’s Blackmun, who grew up a Badger fan just a 3½-hour drive northwest of Madison playing for Hudson High School where he earned all-state honors. 

Blackmun remembers following the Badgers because two former Hudson High players were standouts there — forward Andy Bohmbach and defenseman Drew Drewiske. Drewiske led Mike Eaves’ Badgers to their last national title in 2006 and later had his name engraved on the Stanley Cup for the 2012 NHL champion Los Angeles Kings.

“When I entered high school, that was my dream (to play for the Badgers) but I didn’t have the opportunity,” said Blackmun, who played a year in the USHL for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders before heading off to Massachusetts-Lowell where he earned his undergraduate degree (business analytics) in three years and totaled 16 goals and 26 assists for 42 points in 85 games for the Hockey East school.

Hudson's Chase Blackmun, left, chases down Appleton United's Matthew Gruber during the WIAA state tournament championship game, Saturday, March 5, at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Madison. Appleton United defeated Hudson 2-1.

One of his teammates during his 2017-18 RoughRiders season was center Graham Slaggert, whose father Andy is an associate head coach and principal recruiter for Jackson. During that season, the RoughRiders stopped in South Bend on a trip to play in Pennsylvania and Hudson got a chance to visit the Notre Dame campus.

“I just fell in love with the school,” Blackmun said. “When I got a chance to come here, I knew it would be life-changing in terms of the academics, hockey and the possibility of having a chance to win a national championship. To be able to attend school here and to play hockey for Notre Dame is special.”

His head coach has been impressed by Blackmun’s quick acclimation.

“I have a lot of respect for Chase because of the quality of the individual,” Jackson said. “We added him to our leadership group because he’s so well respected and liked by his teammates. That’s what makes him a valuable player on the ice and off it.”

In the classroom, Blackmun already has earned a graduate degree in business analytics and is now working on his MBA. On the ice, Blackmun has appeared in 63 games and totaled three goals and 21 assists while playing defense and being an important point man on the Irish power play. Three of those assists have come against the Badgers.

“I always want to do well against them,” Blackmun said. “I have a little bit of a chip on my shoulder. The games against them are a little more special.”

Especially this weekend.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Wisconsin Badgers

When/Where: Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 6 p.m. at Lefty Smith Rink (4,852) in Compton Family Ice Arena, South Bend.

Radio: WZOC-FM (94.3) and

TV/Streaming: Peacock.

Records: Notre Dame is 11-12-3 overall, 6-8-2 Big Ten for 20 points and fifth place. … Wisconsin is 10-14-0 overall, 3-11-0 Big Ten for 9 points and seventh place.

Big Ten standings:1.Minnesota 12-3-1, 37 points (18-7-1); 2. Ohio State 9-7-0, 27 points (16-9-1) and Penn State 8-7-1, 27 points (18-7-1); 4. Michigan State 7-7-2, 24 points (13-11-2); 5. Notre Dame 6-8-2, 20 points (11-12-3); 6. Michigan 6-8-0, 18 points (14-9-1); 7. Wisconsin 3-11-0, 9 points (10-14-0).

Rankings: Notre Dame is ranked No. 20 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine coaches’ poll and is receiving votes in the media poll. … Wisconsin is unranked in both. … In the NCAA Tournament PairWise Comparison Rankings, Notre Dame is No. 15 and Wisconsin No. 33. … In the College Hockey News Power Ratings, Notre Dame is No. 1 and Wisconsin No. 7 in strength of schedule. 

Coaches: Notre Dame, Jeff Jackson (387-242-69 in 18th season at Notre Dame and 569-294-94 in 24th season overall) and Wisconsin, Tony Granato (102-122-16 in seventh season at Wisconsin and overall).

Rivalry: Earlier this month at the Kohl Center in Madison, the Badgers blanked the Irish 2-0 on Jan. 6 before Notre Dame bounced back Jan. 7 with a 6-4 victory. … Wisconsin leads series 49-31-9 that began with a 3-0 Irish victory at the outdoor Badin Rink at Notre Dame on Feb. 18, 1922.

Scouting Badgers: Wisconsin split a Big Ten home series last weekend with Ohio State, winning 4-0 Friday and losing 2-0 Saturday. … Senior goaltender Jared Moe (9-10-0 record, 2.56 goals-against average, .917 saves percentage, four shutouts) needed just 22 saves in blanking the Buckeyes Friday and had 25 saves in Saturday loss to capture Big Ten Second Star of the Week honors, finishing the weekend with a .979 saves percentage. … Freshman right wing Cruz Lucius (9-15-24) leads team in scoring followed by grad center Brock Caufield (7-7-14), sophomore defenseman Corson Ceulemans (6-8-14) and junior left wing Mathieu De St. Phalle (4-10-14).

… In last meeting with Irish, Badgers scored four power-play goals on five chances in final period, two of them by 6-foot-5 left wing Carson Bantle (6-2-8). … NCAA team statistics (out of 60 teams as of Jan. 22): Scoring offense, 2.50 goals per game (44th); scoring defense, 3.00 goals per game (39th); scoring margin, -0.50 goals per game (41st); faceoff-win percentage, 0.543 (765-644) (5th); power-play percentage, 0.204 (21 of 103) (26th); power-play goals scored, 21 (19th); penalty-kill percentage, 0.806 (75 of 93) (27th); shorthanded goals scored, 4 (11th); team penalty minutes per game, 11.17 (23rd).

Scouting Fighting Irish: Notre Dame split a Big Ten road series last weekend at Penn State, winning 2-1 Friday and losing 3-2 Saturday. … … The Irish scored two power-play goals, had just 12 minutes in penalties and didn’t allow a power-play goal. … Senior goaltender Ryan Bischel was named Big Ten Third Star of the Week for the second week in a row (and third this season) after his performance against the Nittany Lions – 94 saves and a .959 saves percentage for the weekend. … Bischel (11-12-2, 2.52 average, four shutouts) now leads nation in saves with 824 and is fifth in saves percentage at .928.

… Right wings Trevor Janicke (8-9-17) and Ryder Rolston (7-10-17) continue to pace Irish in scoring followed by center Chayse Primeau (6-9-15) and defensemen Nick Leivermann (5-8-13) and Drew Bavaro (4-8-12). … Bischel, Leivermann and Janicke are on the ballot for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as the nation’s top college player. … NCAA team statistics (out of 60 teams as of Jan. 22): Scoring offense, 2.35 goals per game (49th); scoring defense, 2.77 goals per game (29th); scoring margin, -0.42 goals per game (40th); faceoff-win percentage, 0.487 (762-803) (39th); power-play percentage, 0.155 (13 of 84) (45th); power-play goals scored, 13 (47th); penalty-kill percentage, 0.772 (70 of 91) (52nd); shorthanded goals scored, 2 (24th); team penalty minutes per game, 12.12 (15th).

Quoting Jeff Jackson: (Wisconsin preview) “Wisconsin is the last-place team on paper, but they beat us, they beat Michigan and they beat Ohio State. The last month they’ve gotten healthy. Tony has his complete roster, and they will be a dangerous team for whoever plays them the rest of the season.”

(Bischel) “This year he’s been our backbone. He gives us a chance to win every night. I like his demeanor. He’s calm and doesn’t let much affect him.”

Next up: Notre Dame visits Michigan State and Wisconsin travels to Michigan Feb. 3-4.

John Fineran, Tribune Correspondent