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Men’s Lacrosse: Defense, goaltending shut down Blue Devils

Sam Gans | Sunday, February 19, 2012

Notre Dame’s 2011 season came to a close at the hands of Duke in a 7-5 loss in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. This year, the No. 9 Irish opened their season with a bit of revenge thanks to a 7-3 win over the No. 2 Blue Devils at Arlotta Stadium on Saturday.

After falling behind 2-0 early in the second quarter, Notre Dame (1-0) took control of the game, scoring four goals in the second stanza to take a 4-2 lead into halftime and sending the sold-out crowd of 2,053 into a frenzy.

Duke goaltender Dan Wigrizer frustrated Irish shooters early, making 11 saves before Irish senior captain and attackman Nicholas Beattie fired a hard shot from 10 yards out past the netminder with 9:28 left in the half to get Notre Dame on the board. Beattie, who was cross-checked just after releasing the shot, was injured on the play and did not return to the game.

Wigrizer had only one more save in the half after Beattie’s goal, as a trio of sophomores each found the back of the net to give the Irish a two-goal cushion. Attackmen Westy Hopkins and Ryan Mix and midfielder Jim Marlatt all scored within two minutes of each other near the end of the half.

“We didn’t really change anything with our shooting,” Irish senior captain and midfielder Max Pfeifer said. “We kept it on [Wigrizer]. He was making some good saves. We were hitting him early on. We just kept it on and kept the pressure on, didn’t change anything and they just ended up going in. No goalie can keep up that good-paced tempo that he was doing in the first half throughout the whole game.”

Pfeifer, who had two assists in the first half, added two goals of his own in the second, including the final tally to ice the game.

The Irish offense could afford a lack of finishing early thanks to the play of their defense and Irish junior goaltender John Kemp, who held a Duke offense that notched 16 goals in its season opener to just three Saturday. Kemp finished with an impressive 14 saves and after the Blue Devils (1-1) went up 2-0 with 10:42 left in the second quarter, Notre Dame did not allow another goal until just 18 seconds remained in the contest.

“I thought we just came out and played well,” Kemp said. “We didn’t really make that many mistakes. Defensively, we didn’t really give up that many good shots. And thankfully, the good shots that they did get I was able to stop a couple of them, so I think we’re pretty happy. We gave up three goals against the No. 2 team in the country. I think that’s a pretty good day.”

The victory marked the 10th straight season-opening win for Notre Dame, an accomplishment Irish coach Kevin Corrigan credited to his team’s offseason dedication.

“Our guys work very hard in the preseason and I think they do a good job of doing what you need to do in the preseason, which is kind of preparing yourself fundamentally so that you’re ready to take what comes at you in the first game, because it’s always a little bit of a crapshoot,” Corrigan said. “You’re going to see some things you know, but a lot that you haven’t, so I think fundamentals are real important early on.”

The result is a little bit of déjà vu for the Irish, who also defeated Duke to open last season after falling to the Blue Devils in the NCAA championship in 2010. Because of that, while Pfeifer know Saturday’s win was big, there’s still a lot of season left to be played, he said.

“It’s big. It feels good right now, but it’s just the first game,” Pfeifer said. “[What] really matters [is] the last game at the end of May. So that’s what we’re working for but it feels good right now. Good win, good team effort. [We will] enjoy it now and then get back to work next week.”

The Irish are back in action Sunday when they host No. 18 Penn State.


Contact Sam Gans at [email protected]