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Hockey

Season ends in overtime heartbreaker

| Sunday, March 30, 2014

For the second year in a row, the Irish saw their season ended at the hands of the St. Cloud State Huskies, falling 4-3 in overtime in the first round of the NCAA tournament at the XCel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., on Saturday night.

Despite outshooting St. Cloud 42-28, Notre Dame (23-15-2, 9-9-2 HEA) was forced to play from behind the entire game as the Huskies (22-10-5, 15-6-3 NCHC) took advantage of a number of Irish miscues.

Irish sophomore forward Thomas DiPauli fights for the puck during a game versus Maine on Feb. 7. DiPauli scored a goal in Saturday's 4-3 overtime loss.Vicky Jacobsen | The Observer

Irish sophomore forward Thomas DiPauli fights for the puck during a game versus Maine on Feb. 7. DiPauli scored a goal in Saturday’s 4-3 overtime loss.

The final mistake came with 2:39 remaining in the overtime period. St. Cloud senior center Nic Dowd corralled the puck at the Irish blue line after a Notre Dame turnover and whistled a shot through the screen of Irish senior defenseman Kevin Lind. The shot beat senior goaltender Steven Summerhays and clanked off the right iron into the net to send the Huskies into a second-round matchup with Minnesota.

A year after St. Cloud defeated the Irish 5-1 in the first round of the 2013 NCAA tournament, the loss brings Notre Dame’s season to a disappointing close.

“I think this team had visions of getting back to the Frozen Four,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, being in a bracket with St. Cloud and Minnesota, but we really felt like we could go up against anyone in the country and win.”

The Irish came out sluggish in the first period, surrendering a goal at 6:54 as poor defensive zone coverage left St. Cloud State freshman forward Ryan Papa alone at the left post for an easy tap-in goal.

Notre Dame tied the game up just a few minutes later on a goal from senior right wing Bryan Rust but gave it back in the final minute of the period as Huskies senior forward Brooks Bertsch found a soft spot in front of Summerhays, taking a pass from Huskies senior forward Cory Thorson and slipping the puck past the Irish goaltender.

“This time of the year, you can’t make those kinds of mistakes,” Jackson said. “We were running five defensemen for most of the game, and sometimes our guys get a bit tired and that may have been the case there.”

The Irish came out with a vengeance in the second period, peppering junior goaltender Ryan Faragher with 18 shots, but Notre Dame left the period still down a goal with just one goal to show for their efforts. St. Cloud again found the Irish net in the last minute of the period as sophomore forward Jonny Brodzinski’s screened shot from the top of the circle beat a bewildered Summerhays, who appeared to never find the puck.

Irish sophomore forward Thomas DiPauli scored the only goal for either team in the third, sending the game to overtime. In 60 minutes of regulation time, the Irish had outshot St. Cloud 36-12, but the Huskies turned the tide in the extra period, outshooting Notre Dame 16-6 before Dowd’s game-winner.

“I think they picked up their game, and we started turning pucks over,” Jackson said. “We were doing a great job in the second and third period of coming through the neutral zone and not turning the puck over, but the overtime was not like that. We had guys trying to beat people one-on-one and making high-risk plays. They had a few odd-man rushes before they actually scored.”

The game was the last one for 11 Irish seniors, a class that earned a trip to the Frozen Four its freshman year and dreamed of bringing a national championship to South Bend.

Despite compiling a record of 94-60-13 over four years, falling in overtime of the NCAA tournament is an experience that stays with a player, senior forward Jeff Costello said.

“You stay up at night and have nightmares about it,” Costello said. “Especially being on the ice for the last one, it’s something I’m never going to forget.”

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