MADISON, Wis. — No. 4 Wisconsin came into the weekend looking to gain some momentum heading into the toughest stretch of their schedule.
After a 3-1 loss at the hands of Notre Dame Sunday night, they are left wondering what happened to the chances and goals that had been there in previous weeks.
“I thought we worked really hard. We had a tremendous week of practice, but the X-factor of having the pucks go in the net was one that we couldn’t solve this weekend,” Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said.
On the other side, Notre Dame leaves Madison after a huge win, ready for the home stretch of the CCHA season.
“What [this win] means is that you have a great day off tomorrow, after a great bus ride, and have a great week of practice and prepare for Northern Michigan next weekend,” Notre Dame coach Dave Poulin said.
Notre Dame started out the game flat, but came together when needed. Assistant captain Rob Globke tallied two goals, capping off his four-point weekend.
After solid play in net from junior Morgan Cey Saturday night, Notre Dame went with David Brown on Sunday. The freshman made 30 saves in the winning effort, but the jury is still out on the goalie situation.
“I am working with a unique situation,” Poulin said. “And if you are going to ask me how it is going to play out, I don’t know. I’m going to let them decide that.”
Wisconsin also went with a freshman goalie. Brian Elliott got the start, but after giving up two goals in the second period, he was pulled for the final 20 minutes.
The Badgers came out ready to play on Sunday, but could not put the puck in the net when they needed it most. They did dictate play in the first period and it paid off four minutes into the game.
Saturday night’s hero, John Eichelberger, hooked up with Rene Bourque in front of the Irish net. Bourque made a quick backhand shot that found its way through goalie Brown’s legs.
The Badgers continued to control play, so much in fact that Notre Dame did not get its first shot on net until eight and a half minutes into the game. Wisconsin outshot the Irish 13-2 in the opening period, yet only had a 1-0 lead heading into the second.
“We were very hesitant,” Poulin said. “To get out of the first period down only 1-0 was good and the rest of the game we played like we can play.”
Wisconsin carried its momentum into the second period and this time it took six minutes for Notre Dame to put a shot on goal. Unfortunately for the Badgers, that shot got past Elliott.
Mike Walsh skated the puck into the zone and took on Elliott one-on-one. His shot, just the third shot that Elliott had seen all night, flew over the netminder’s glove, knotting the game at one goal apiece.
The remainder of the period was played evenly between the two teams, but Notre Dame took advantage of a series of Badger penalties with five minutes to play to take a 2-1 lead.
With Ryan Suter already in the box serving a minor penalty, Tom Gilbert took a minor slashing call. Notre Dame could not capitalize on 37 seconds worth of five-on-three play, but they would go on a two-man advantage again.
When his penalty time expired, Suter headed to the bench while his team tried to muster a breakaway. With players coming down the ice, Suter tangled up with an Irish player and was called for interference.
Eaves was very upset and pleaded his case to no avail. Notre Dame was not about to be denied with yet another two-man advantage.
“On that call, Ryan has a perfect right to get to the bench,” Eaves said. “We had two of those things, and [referee Marco Hunt] hesitated about putting us on the five-on-three, and there were some things that I wondered about. But those things we can’t control.”
With less than four minutes to play in the period, Globke got his third point of the series when he ripped a shot over the right shoulder of Elliott, giving Notre Dame the lead for good.
The two teams battled hard throughout a defensive third period. They combined for just 12 total shots and Notre Dame added an empty-netter.
Wisconsin was within inches of tying the game with less than five minutes to play. Adam Burish got the puck while streaking out of the penalty box and fired a shot that blasted off of the post, showing it was just not meant to be for the Badgers on this night.
The fact that Wisconsin went 0-for-6 on the man advantage only added to the Badgers’ frustrations.
“We are in a little bit of a slump offensively, and the power play is a part of that,” Eaves said. “You go through those things. We outshot and probably outchanced, but the puck just won’t go in the net.”
Globke added an empty net goal in the waning seconds of the game, sealing the victory for the Irish. Notre Dame now finds itself in seventh place in the CCHA standings, but just three points off the lead.
Wisconsin heads into a crucial part of their schedule. Next weekend the Badgers go on the road to Colorado College before facing Minnesota on the road. Then they face two more ranked teams with home series against North Dakota and St. Cloud State.