No matter what sport you talk about at Notre Dame, there is there is always lore to read about. Single game elimination for the B1G semifinals kicked off on Saturday night against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The records speak for themselves, #16/15 Notre Dame (20-13-3, 11-11-2-2 B1G) vs. Minnesota (18-15-4, 11-10-3-0 B1G), these are two well matched teams. At the end of the game on Saturday night there would be lore to add to that history, this time at Compton Family Ice Arena.
Start Fast!! Over the past couple weeks the Fightin’ Irish have been showing a new form of offense. They have stepped up their play in the first period. Saturday night that continued. Two minutes into the semifinal match against the Golden Gophers, magic happened. Switching out Dylan Malmquist for Cam Morrison paid dividends for Coach Jackson. Morrison, Mike O’Leary, and Michael Graham formed a new line. Morrison scored the first goal of the game on the glove side of Gophers Goalie Mat Robson.
After the goal by Morrison, Minnesota knew they had to respond. Falling behind in any single elimination game is tough to “chase points” and win the game. At 5:44, Sampo Ranta in front of Cale Morris put the puck in the net for the equalizer. The shot by Ranta was the first shot on goal by the Gophers. Despite the Irish not scoring another goal in the period, they were putting the Gophers on notice. Offensively the Irish forced the Gophers to play defense for much of the period. The Irish had 27 shots attempted compared to the Gophers 7, 17 of the shots were on target compared to the Gophers 5. In a high pressure game, it is better to give than receive.
After a period of equalizing goals, the obvious happens. Both teams make the needed adjustments at the first intermission. Neither team was going to be the first to blink. The defenses were in laser focus, while the offenses were trying to figure out how to break through the “brickwalls” at the opposite ends of the arena. The period had a minor shift in momentum that swung in the Gophers favor. You can have that momentum swing, just don’t let the puck slip into the back of the net.
The Irish had few attempts from close range, but primarily from the left and right face-off circles and a couple from the left side of Robson. The Gophers were not even allowed near the net on their attempts as the Irish built a wall around Morris in which only three shots came from Morris’ left hand side and one that hit the pipe from his right. Overall, Minnesota attempted 17 shots to the Irish 15, 12 shots were on target for the Gophers while the Irish tallied 8. If you were looking for a phenomenal third period, this was the prelude to that. No goals scored by either side to remain tied at one.
The third period was just as exciting as the second period. This time time the Irish were dictating the tempo. Again, the offense was taking control and putting the Gophers on their heels. They were firing the puck from all over the offensive side of the ice while the defense kept the crease clear for Morris.
Though the Minnesota was firing from closer range and attempting 11 shots of which 9 were on target, The Irish were covering the offensive ice from every point possible to keep the Gopher goaltender very busy. With 23 attempts which 11 were on target, there was six Irish players contributing on the shots on goal, Tory Dello, Alex Steeves, Mike O’Leary, all contributing a shot a piece. Bobby Nardella and Dylan Malmquist had two a piece and Andrew Peeke had four. That is quite an effort. But 60 minutes is just not enough. There is some “FREE HOCKEY” to be played.
Sudden Death OVERTIME
Finish Strong! One the most exciting moments to a hockey fan, especially in a playoff situation is Sudden Death Overtime. The rules are simple, a full 15 minute intermission, followed by a 20 minute scheduled period and hopefully you don’t need more than that, because you play until someone wins. Who was going to be the hero, and who was going to have a broken heart? The face-off ensues after the intermission and then an opportunity arises. The Gophers are called for a penalty.
After the face-off win by Mike O’Leary, Malmquist tries attempts the game but the puck is shot wide of the goal. Michael Graham the freshman gets the puck and end the Sudden Death Overtime with a goal from the left hand side of Robson to send the Irish to the B1G Conference championship. The Compton Family Ice Arena with an attendance of 4,882 in attendance goes wild as the lamp is lit.
Post Game Press Conferences
Coach Jeff Jackson
Shake Down The Thunder Sports question to Coach Jackson-“You guys played a lot of offense tonight (Saturday), you kept the Gophers on defense and on their heels. What does that say about your team now that you are advancing to next week?”
Coach Jackson’s Response-“We need to play on our toes, we got good speed as a team. Minnesota is a fast team, speed is on thing but playing fast mentally is important, thats why I talk about patience, because sometimes if you are thinking to fast with the puck you can turn it over. So we got to play fast on defense, floor check, and counter press, we have to back pressure, we have to a great job without the puck, with our speed.”
“Then offensively, take advantage on transition. This team doesn’t give you a lot. You need to be patient, sometimes you don’t get the opportunities you’re looking for, the kids lose their patience, so they try high risk stuff and it goes the other way.”
Shake Down The Thunder Sports question to Michael Graham-“Michael coming out of High School what is the contrast in the speed of the game. They always say the game moves at another speed from the High School to the college game where you are now?”
Michael’s Response- I played USHL, obviously it was nothing like this. I just go out there and play. There is a lot more structure, it takes a while to get used to the game. I think I have gotten used to it in the second half.” Click here for the video.
☘☘☘-Cale Morris 25 Saves
☘ Michael Graham-2 Shots, Game Winner in OT
Originally this story would have been published early on Sunday morning. A family commitment kept me from publishing this article. But there is great news to report. The #1 seed Ohio State lost to #4 seed Penn State on Sunday afternoon by a score of 5-1. That result means that the #2 seed Fightin’ Irish will host #4 Penn State on Saturday night 8 PM EST at Compton Family Ice Arena. Click here for tickets. The game will be broadcast on the the Big 10 Network.
Cheers and Go Irish! ☘🥅🏒🚨🥅⚡
I would like to thank Cameron Fritzel for the feature photo for this article.