DAYTON, Ohio — The Wisconsin Badgers had offensive contributions from three different classes in their 4-1 win over Notre Dame in the opening game of the Lefty McFadden College Hockey Invitational, and senior defenseman Davis Drewiske had three assists, but Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves wants everyone to understand that this is a very young hockey team.
“We have 17 underclassmen, so we’re an underclassman team right now,” said Eaves. “There are a lot of opportunities for young people, and we hope that the young people that we brought in will be able to step up to the plate like they did tonight. There were some great performances by some young people.”
The youthful contributions included sophomore Aaron Bendickson’s game-winning goal, the first of his career, at 10:32 in the third, and first-time goals from rookies Sean Dolan and Kyle Turris.
Eaves said that the line of center Turris, his classmate Podge Turnbull and junior left winger Ben Street “had great jump early.”
“They were at times dominating in that first period and I hope to see a lot more first periods from that group of people. They played well. I think Kyle will settle in and find his stride.”
Another Badger, Josh Engel, scored his first career goal for Wisconsin in his first game playing forward after three years on the blue line. Tom Gorowsky had the third UW goal, and junior netminder Shane Connolly stopped 23 shots in his first win of the season.
Senior Mark Van Guilder had the lone Irish goal, and in his first start of the season, junior Jordan Pearce made 21 saves in the loss. Last year, Pearce saw little action behind Hobey Baker candidate David Brown, but any speculation about how he’d step into the role of starter was quieted by his first-period performance, in which the Badgers dominated and Pearce stopped 12-of-13 to keep the Irish close.
“Maybe that was the best thing that could have happened,” said Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson. “It gave our goaltender a chance to show that he can be okay.”
Each period of this one felt like a different game.
It was all Wisconsin and, therefore, also Pearce in the first period, when the Badgers outshot the Irish 13-3, dominated possession of the puck, and kept the Irish from registering a shot on goal until 11:46.
“I think our guys were deer in the headlights,” said Jackson. “They were nervous. I think they showed that in the way they came back and played the rest of the game. Too much pent up. Why that’s us and not them, I have no idea.”
Engel opened the scoring at 15:05 in the first, finally solving Pearce at a rare moment when Wisconsin had to transition the puck from its own end back to the offensive zone. Drewiske brought the puck up the ice, passed off to Matthew Ford, and Ford centered to Engel, whose shot from very top of the slot beat Pearce low and clean on the glove side to make it 1-0 after one.
In the second, the Irish overcame their jitters and played well enough to force the Badgers into the penalty box for eight minutes, resulting in Van Guilder’s power-play goal at 2:20. With Notre Dame cycling the puck low, Ben Ryan fed Van Guilder in the left circle from behind the net, and the Irish captain went five-hole on Connelly to knot the score 1-1.
“A couple of things happened,” said Eaves. “First of all, they were very disappointed in the first period, so they come out with a little bit more charge [at the start of the second], and we didn’t help ourselves by going to the penalty box, and that gave them some life. All of a sudden, the shots started evening out because they’re on the power play.
“Overall, our penalty killing did a pretty good job, six out of seven, and not having a lot of repetitions, that’s pretty good for us.”
The play seemed even in the third until the Badgers remembered their speed in the second half of the brace, resulting in the final three goals of the game. Dolan scored the go-ahead goal on a play begun by Patrick Johnson, who forced the puck from the corner out to Cody Goloubef. Goloubef touched to Drewiske, who backhanded a pass to Dolan, whose clean shot beat Pearson at 10:32 to make it 2-1.
At 13:31, Gorowsky picked up Drewiske’s rebound to make it 3-1,and with 25.2 seconds remaining in the game, Turris converted Michael Davies’ cross-crease pass on a Badger two-on-one power-play opportunity, bringing the final score to 4-1.
“We picked it up in the last 15 minutes and played with the level that we had in the first 20,” said Eaves, who said the game looked like it was the first game of the season.
“It was your first typical game; you’re not sure what you’re going to get.”
The Badgers advance to play for the invitational title against the winner of the Mercyhurst-Ohio State contest, while the Irish will have to console themselves tomorrow afternoon in the third-place game. The pucks drop at 4:35 and 7:35 Saturday night.