For the past couple month’s the Fightin’ Irish have been playoff hockey. Playoff hockey in the sense that they have been playing for a chance to be where they ended up Friday night, Manchester NH in the Frozen Four Tournament. The past season saw a combination of great wins, and some close losses. In tournament season you need to dig deep and remember what it took to get you where you are currently. Friday night was the perfect example of that deep gut check and digging deep for a win.
Coach Jackson has talked all season about playing smart hockey. The Irish have been doing that the past month. In the first period the Irish kept the Golden Knights for much of the period. They were firing at will on Clarkson Goalie Jake Kielly. The Irish had nine shots on goal before Clarkson got their first around 13:47. Remember it’s quality of shots not the quantity. Clarkson’s Marly Quince would sneak the puck on Cale Morris’ stick side at 16:56 to take a 1-0 lead on the Irish. Despite the 11-6 advantage with Shots On Goal, and 13-5 on face offs, the Irish trailed going into the first intermission.
The second period once again the Irish puckers were going to come out fighting. The Irish came out and quickly put four shots on goal compared to the two by Clarkson. At 4:58 Colin Theisen lit the lamp with the equalizer. The Irish needed that goal in order to stop playing from behind.
As with previous goals scored against their opponents. The Irish opponents often tried to return the favor as soon as they could. At 6:29 a slim 1:29 later, Haralds Egle, with laser gets the puck by Morris to reclaim the lead 2-1. The Irish had the wind taken right of their sails. Clarkson played stubborn offense and forced the Irish to play defense for a vast majority of the second period. Once again the Irish were winning on the stats page. The Irish led Shots On Goal 11-7, Face offs 11-5, and for sure the the one stat the Irish want to be dominating is the scoreboard and that was in control by the Golden Knights 2-1.
Going from past experience and interviewing Coach Jackson, he probably told his team to play smart, focused hockey and the game will come to them. A small portion of that happened at the beginning of the period. Nico Sturm gave the Irish a chance to score and score often. A hitting from behind penalty resulted in a five minute major penalty and a ten minute game misconduct and an ejection from the game.
Despite the man advantage for five minutes, the Irish were only able to muster up three shots on goal in that time frame. In an amazing set of defensive and offensive play by the Golden Knights, they managed to come out of the penalty unscathed. One minute later the Golden Knights were not helping there own cause. Again a penalty put them a man down and had to fight off yet another Irish power play. As exhausting as it is, Clarkson fought off another Irish power play. Seven minutes of power kill is difficult for anyone to endure. But the Golden Knights were doing it, and they were still leading in the contest.
While the Golden Knights were playing prevent defense, the Irish were digging deep and trying to put another goal on the board. At 17:21 the Fightin’ Irish pulled Cale Morris from the game and left an Empty Net, for an Extra Attacker. With 2:30 remaining in the game, Coach Jackson put his trust in his team. 19 seconds later Coach Jackson got the result he was looking for. Bobby Nardella smashed the puck by Kielly to get the equalizer, and tie the game a 2-2.
With every positive play the Irish have had to this point in the game, a negative has proceeded it. This goal was no different. After the goal, Jake Pivonka had to serve a two minute minor for a face off violation. The Irish start the penalty kill just before the end of regulation. Prior to tonight’s game the Irish were 3-0-3 in OT. The “cardiac kids” are back. After 60 minutes of play, both teams will have to play some “Sudden Death OT” hockey as the scoreboard read 2-2 with 0:00 on the board.
SUDDEN DEATH OVERTIME
Sudden Death overtime, is nothing new to this team lately. The question become how long will it take to decide the winner. Clarkson came out with the first shot on goal. A rare opportunity presented itself to the Irish puckers, a “Penalty Shot.” Golden Knight Michael Underwood, is called for Hooking as Cal Burke attempted to score. On the ensuing attempt on the penalty shot, Burke is denied Kielly as he barely moved from his stance in front of the goal. Definitely a lost opportunity for the game winner.
Both teams battled on some more through the “free hockey” period. After a few exchanges on the opposite ends of the ice. Cam Morrison decided enough was enough. At 15:53 into the Sudden Death OT, Morrison capitalizes and gets the game winner. Coach changed up the line for this exact moment. Morrison once again helps the Irish in a single elimination game. The Irish win in the bonus time 3-2. Eliminating the Golden Knights from the tournament.
The Irish will play the #1 Seed UMass tonight at 6:30 P.M. on ESPNU. The Irish will face UMass in the NCAA Regional Final for the third straight year. Earlier Friday afternoon UMass defeated Harvard 4-0.