Friday road woes end: Badgers edge No. 15 Notre Dame in men’s hockey
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Daniel Lebedeff made sure this one didn’t get away from the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team.
In three previous chances in 2019 to close out a one-goal lead entering the final period, the Badgers hadn’t been able to get the job done, losing twice in overtime and tying once.
On Friday, Lebedeff made two spectacular saves midway through the third, letting Roman Ahcan’s second-period goal be the difference in a 2-1 victory over No. 15 Notre Dame at Compton Family Ice Arena.
The result gave the Badgers a feeling they haven’t had before this season: going back to the hotel with smiles on their faces. They were 0-5-1 in Friday road games this season, with the tie preceding a 3-on-3 overtime loss to Michigan.
“It’s kind of a new experience, actually,” said Lebedeff, who made 30 saves. “We haven’t had that many Friday wins, especially away, this year. So it feels incredible.”
Ahcan broke a 1-1 tie with 2:39 remaining in the second period for the Badgers, who improved to 3-10-2 overall on Fridays this season and 1-5 in openers in 2019.
The freshman left wing also drew two Notre Dame penalties, including an interference call on Bobby Nardella with 2:21 left in the third that helped the Badgers seal the victory.
“Friday nights haven’t been our night, and tonight we did the right things for 60 minutes and it pays off,” Ahcan said. “So I think the guys have a little momentum now coming into tomorrow.”
Beyond even the Friday night change of fortune, a lot of things that had failed the Badgers in recent weeks went right.
They held onto a third-period lead. They scored a power-play goal — by Linus Weissbach for a 1-0 lead in the first period — after going 25 straight attempts without success over the past seven games.
They killed both Fighting Irish power plays — allowing only one shot on goal — after entering the game second from the bottom in the country in penalty killing.
Asked what of those aspects pleased him the most, coach Tony Granato went off the board and said it was everybody played for each other.
“When you draw up a road game plan, that’s how you want to play,” he said. “You need good goaltending. You need to be good on specialty teams. And you’ve got to put pressure on their (defense) with your speed.”
The laurels started in goal with Lebedeff, who allowed only Dylan Malmquist’s first-period goal that tied the game at 1. The freshman goalie made an impressive right-pad save on Cam Morrison in the first period but saved his best for the third.
With the Badgers on the ropes defensively, Lebedeff got his left pad down to deny a Jack Jenkins attempt off a pass from Pierce Crawford.
Less than 90 seconds later, he got enough of Colin Theisen’s shot from the front of the net with his left leg to let it settle underneath him.
“Some of those saves were just ridiculous,” Badgers captain Peter Tischke said. “He played out of his mind tonight.”
Said Ahcan: “He was unbelievable. He won the game for us.”
The effort came with the Badgers playing with a thin defensive corps after Tyler Inamoto left the game in the second period. He appeared to get a stick above his hip in the first period; it’s unclear whether he’ll play today.
UW already was without defenseman K’Andre Miller, who is out for two to three weeks with a left leg injury. Jesper Peltonen, his replacement in the lineup, had to play extended minutes for the first time this season.
“I’m very proud of us,” Tischke said of his fellow defensemen. “There were times that they had a ton of pressure on us in the zone, and we call it you bend but you don’t break. That’s what we did all night.”
Notre Dame goalie Cale Morris (35 saves) took a turn making an outstanding save in the second period, shooting out his stick and blocker to stop Brock Caufield’s try at a mostly empty net after a give-and-go with Ahcan.
The freshmen got revenge with 2:39 left in the middle period when Ahcan started and finished a rush out of the defensive zone.
In transition, Caufield carried up the right side and sent the puck to the front of the net, where Ahcan and Josh Ess were crashing the top of the crease. The pass found Ahcan’s stick and deflected past Morris’ blocker for a 2-1 UW lead.
“The game’s fair,” Ahcan said, “so it comes back to us.”
Wisconsin 1 1 0 — 2
Notre Dame 1 0 0 — 1
First period: W — Weissbach 5 (S. Dhooghe, Kalynuk), 5:31 (pp). N — Malmquist 10 (Dello, O’Leary), 15:52. Penalty: Hellickson, N, 4:42.
Second period: W — Ahcan 5 (Caufield, Ess), 17:21.
Third period: Penalties: Tischke, W, 2:32; Graham, N, 3:36; Freytag, W, 9:52; Nardella, N, 17:39.
Saves: W (Lebedeff 9-13-8) 30; N (Morris 15-11-9) 35. Power plays: W 1-for-3; N 0-for-2. Att. — 4,611.