Like the rest of his team, Daniel Lebedeff got off his game for a few moments last Friday night, allowing three goals in 74 seconds to let a good outing slip away.
In the rest of the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team’s two-game series against Minnesota, the freshman goalie was exactly what the Badgers needed him to be.
Outside of the three-goals-on-three-shots flurry in the second period on Friday, Lebedeff stopped 56 of 57 shots as the teams split the series.
He has positioned himself third among Big Ten Conference goalies in save percentage and 14th nationally at .927.
Badgers coach Tony Granato called Lebedeff a “bright spot” at a position that was uncertain entering the season.
“He’s living up to what we thought he would do,” Granato said.
Lebedeff will get his fourth straight start when UW opens a two-game league series at No. 6 Ohio State on Friday.
He has already shown poise in games against Badgers rivals. Now, he’ll have to do against a top-10 team in a road environment, facing a pair of former All-American forwards in Mason Jobst and Tanner Laczynski.
Lebedeff admitted he got “pretty heated” after Minnesota’s first goal last Friday stood despite that he was taken to the ice by a Gophers player just before the shot. Referees ruled UW’s Ty Emberson initiated the contact.
“It still bothered me maybe for a couple minutes,” Lebedeff said. “But then I realized I had to focus on the game.”
That couple minutes was enough to fall behind on Friday, but he stopped 32 shots on Saturday in a 3-1 victory.
The rebound quieted Granato’s concerns about whether Lebedeff could find his focus after a tough loss.
“It’s another thing we’ve learned about him, his ability to put things behind him fast and get ready,” Granato said. “He’s been very, very consistent. He’s been what you need in a starting goalie.”
World Juniors scouting
Badgers players have been under the microscope from the coaching staff of the U.S. World Junior Championship team, and that’ll continue this week.
Head coach Mike Hastings, also coach at Minnesota State, was at last Saturday’s game at the Kohl Center. U.S. assistant coach Scott Sandelin, also coach at Minnesota Duluth, was scouting the Badgers’ Nov. 2 game at North Dakota.
And UW will see another World Junior assistant in Ohio State associate head coach and Sun Prairie native Steve Miller on Friday and Saturday.
The Badgers had two sophomores at last summer’s evaluation camp for the under-20 tournament, right wing Sean Dhooghe and defenseman Josh Ess. Freshman defenseman K’Andre Miller was invited but unable to attend because of illness. Emberson’s strong start also has attracted attention.
USA Hockey will name a preliminary roster for the final camps before the Dec. 26-Jan. 5 tournament in British Columbia in early December.
Gorniak goes viral
Jack Gorniak’s old high school team helped make his first collegiate goal, an empty-net score in the final minute on Saturday, a minor Twitter sensation.
Members of the West Salem/Bangor team watched the game from the Kohl Center seats, and the team’s Twitter account posted video of their jubilant reaction as Gorniak forced a turnover, raced to catch up to the puck and score.
That caught the attention of the Montreal Canadiens, who picked Gorniak in the fourth round of the NHL draft this year. They posted a story to their website on Sunday about Gorniak’s goal and, more specifically, the high school team’s celebration.
“He has created a lot of offensive opportunities for himself and our team,” Granato said. “It was fitting that he was able to finally get a goal and was a big part of that win.”
If the Badgers hadn’t been able to challenge an incorrect call, they would have been trailing just 33 seconds into the second game against Minnesota.
Minnesota defenseman Jack Sadek’s shot deflected off UW defenseman Peter Tischke’s skate, up over the glass and into the protective netting. But the officials apparently didn’t see that, and when the puck rebounded back over the cage and into the net after hitting UW forward Dominick Mersch’s skate, the play was called a goal.
Starting this season, NCAA rules say that teams have to use a coach’s challenge to ask for a review on plays that should have been stopped because of a puck going into the netting. If a team has already used its timeout or has lost it through an earlier unsuccessful challenge, it can’t have the second look.
That was one of six plays that were reviewed during the series against Minnesota, three in each game.
Badgers recruit Cole Caufield keeps helping his NHL draft stock. The Mosinee native and younger brother of UW freshman Brock Caufield scored seven goals with two assists as the U.S. swept through four games at the Under-18 Five Nations Tournament in the Czech Republic last week.
Cole Caufield posted at least one goal in each game, with a hat trick against Switzerland last Friday.
He and USA Hockey National Team Development Program teammates Alex Turcotte and Owen Lindmark are expected to be among the players who the Badgers give a National Letter of Intent this week. The signing period starts Wednesday.
The Badgers will lose at least four senior forwards and two senior defensemen after this season.
On Monday, Caufield and Turcotte maintained “A” ratings on NHL Central Scouting’s watch list for the 2019 draft. That makes them first-round candidates.
Lindmark and forwards Ethan Leyh (Langley, BCHL) and Sam Stange (Eau Claire North, Team Wisconsin) got “C” ratings that translate into a draft position between the fourth and sixth rounds.
All of those grades were unchanged from the October watch list.
Among other players who have given the Badgers an oral commitment:
Dylan Holloway scored three goals over two games last weekend for the Okotoks Oilers in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, giving him 16 in 22 outings this season. He leads the league with 36 points and was its player of the month for October.
- Forward Tanner Latsch (one goal, two points in five games) and defenseman Daniel Laatsch (no points in five games) played with the U.S. team at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in New Brunswick.
- Mathieu De St. Phalle moved closer to his suburban Chicago hometown when he was traded by the USHL’s Omaha Lancers to the Chicago Steel on Nov. 1. The forward has seven goals and 31 points in 73 USHL games over three seasons for three teams.
In the rankings
After four weeks in the top 20, UW fell out of the USCHO.com Division I rankings on Monday. It marked the first time since Jan. 23, 2017, that the Badgers were unranked with a record of .500 or better.