SOUTH BEND, Ind. — If nothing else, Cole Caufield was efficient.
The University of Wisconsin men’s hockey sniper was more than just efficient Friday, but he needed only three shots on goal to record his first collegiate hat trick, helping the Badgers to their first winning streak since October.
“I’ll take it,” he said with a laugh.
It was easy for the Badgers to enjoy the aftermath of a 6-4 victory over Notre Dame at Compton Family Ice Arena after Caufield rescued UW from a two-goal deficit and then put them ahead for good with a power-play score in the second period.
“It always feels good — to help the guys and the team win is the biggest part of it,” said Caufield, whose team-high goal total soared to 16 with the first hat trick by a UW freshman since Robbie Earl’s against North Dakota in February 2004. “Luckily, we got enough tonight.”
UW won for only the third time in 16 opening games of a Big Ten Conference regular-season series over the last three seasons, with goaltender Jack Berry making seven saves during a five-minute power play that threatened the Badgers’ lead in the third period.
The result gave them consecutive victories for the first time since they swept Minnesota Duluth in October.
“That was a hard-fought win, that’s for sure,” Badgers coach Tony Granato said. “That’s the kind of win that we’ve been looking for for a while. Grind it out. We had to deal with some adversity.”
Caufield’s three goals were huge for UW (10-12-1, 5-9-1-1 Big Ten), but senior Max Zimmer’s first goal of the season, a power-play strike for a 5-3 lead 3:18 into the third period, ended up as the winner.
Zimmer fired a shot from the top of the right circle that ticked off the extended stick of Notre Dame’s Cal Burke and sailed past goaltender Cale Morris.
Echoing Caufield, Zimmer shrugged: “Hey, I’ll take it.”
“We faced a lot of adversity tonight, and it’s the type of stuff we’re going to see the rest of the year,” Zimmer said. “If we get down a goal or two goals, we know we can bounce back.”
Notre Dame, which fell to 2-10-3 in 15 games since climbing to No. 3 in the national rankings, led 2-0 and 3-2, then rallied in the third after a major penalty and game misconduct to UW defenseman Ty Emberson for contact to the head opened the door for the Irish (10-11-4, 5-7-3-0).
Burke scored during the five-minute advantage to cut UW’s lead to 5-4, but Berry denied quality scoring chances and the Badgers got shot blocks from Dominick Mersch and K’Andre Miller.
“To see our guys battle like that in the chaos that was going on, to block some of those shots, ... it was great to see those guys put their bodies on the line there,” said Berry, who made 15 of his 29 saves in the third period.
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Caufield’s first two goals helped the Badgers rally from a 2-0 deficit and tied him for the national lead with five multiple-goal games.
The first came with 1:16 left in the opening period and as a result of a Dylan Holloway check at center ice that dislodged the puck from Notre Dame’s Graham Slaggert.
Caufield picked it up and drove the left wing. He quickly got a step on the defender and his flip to the top corner got past Morris.
The hit and the goal generated a shift in momentum.
“It let us calm down a little bit,” Caufield said. “It gave us some energy going into the second that we were still in this game.”
A nice pass from Alex Turcotte on a rush a little over a minute into the second period gave Caufield a free shot from the right side that found the net.
After Notre Dame’s Colin Theisen and UW’s Ty Pelton-Byce traded goals 2:27 apart later in the second period, Caufield sealed his hat trick on the power play.
The Irish gave the Badgers room to move the puck diagonally to Caufield, something that hasn’t been available to UW much since early in the season. Wyatt Kalynuk got the puck through to the left circle, and Caufield finished it off with a shot to the top left corner.
“There were plenty of games earlier in the year where it looked like he was going to have the same type of game, but it was post and out,” Granato said. “Tonight, he was dead on on his shots.”
UW scored multiple power-play goals for the first time in 12 games, since it went 2-for-2 against Notre Dame on Nov. 15. In three games against the Irish this season, the Badgers are 5-for-10 with the man advantage.
Foiled by Morris on three one-on-one chances in Notre Dame’s 5-4 overtime victory at the Kohl Center on Nov. 16, Caufield settled the score Friday.
“He robbed me a couple times,” Caufield said. “I just looked to get it past him, and, luckily enough, they went in tonight.”
Wisconsin 1 3 2 — 6
Notre Dame 2 1 1 — 4
First period: ND — Graham 2 (Theisen, Clurman), 12:25; O’Leary 8 (Theisen, Stastney), 14:34. W — C. Caufield 14, 18:44. Penalties: Holloway, W, :57; Slaggert, ND, 9:16.
Second period: W — C. Caufield 15 (Turcotte, Miller), 1:19. ND — Theisen 6 (O’Leary, Stastney), 13:09. W — Pelton-Byce 6 (S. Dhooghe, Berry), 15:36; C. Caufield 16 (Kalynuk, Weissbach), 17:00 (pp). Penalties: Weissbach, W, 1:37; Pivonka, ND, 4:03; Raith, ND (minor, major, game misconduct), 14:30; Baker, W, 14:30; R. Donovan, W, 14:30.
Third period: W — Zimmer 1 (Miller, Pelton-Byce), 3:18 (pp). ND — Cal Burke 5 (Hellickson, Bischel), 12:52 (pp). W — Kalynuk 6, 19:13 (en). Penalties: Hellickson, ND, 1:35; Ahcan, W, 5:36; Emberson, W (major, game misconduct), 10:21.
Saves: W (Berry 5-9-15) 29; ND (Morris 9-10-0, Bischel x-x-3) 22. Power plays: W 2-for-5; ND 1-for-5. Att. — 4,895.
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