It had been more than eight months since any college hockey teams took the ice. So when No. 20 Notre Dame hosted Wisconsin, a breath of fresh air loomed over Compton Family Ice Arena.
For the host Fighting Irish, though, fresh air turned into frustration as Wisconsin graduate transfer goaltender Robbie Beydoun (25 saves) posted a shutout in his first game with the Badgers, a 2-0 victory over No. 20 Notre Dame to kickoff the 2020-21 campaign.
The final vibe coming from Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson might not have felt great, given his team’s loss. But that didn’t stop him from understanding and acknowledging returning to the ice on Friday was meaningful.
“As the game went on, it started to feel normal, but it’s monumental for all the work that’s been done to get started,” said Jackson. “Things aren’t getting better right now, so I credit the Big Ten for allowing us to get to this point and trying to get as close as possible to a full season.”
Wisconsin, a team picked by the Big Ten coaches to finish third despite some significant early departures, showed an improved commitment to defense through much of the game. Though Beydoun was solid and was rescued late by two shots off the post, for the most part the Badgers defense held the Irish to perimeter chances.
Midway through the first period, Wisconsin grabbed the lead when Linus Weissbach finished off a feed from Ty Pelton-Byce, a transfer from Harvard, at 13:05.
Just after the midway point of the second, Wisconsin went on the power play for the first time on the night and Dylan Holloway, a first-round draft choice of Edmonton over the summer, blasted a Weissbach pass glove side on Notre Dame goaltender Dylan St. Cyr (20 saves).
The Badgers successfully clamped down in the third, though Notre Dame threatened posting 10 shots on goal, and clanging the aforementioned two pipes.
The two teams will complete the series on Saturday evening. The game will be televised in the United States on NHL Network.