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Irish make NCAA tournament despite loss

| Monday, March 24, 2014

As senior Irish goaltender Steven Summerhays has shown with his play over the last month, a hot goaltender can make all the difference in a game, and the No. 10 Irish ran into a scorching hot one Friday night as sophomore goaltender Connor Hellebuyck stopped all 35 Irish shots to lead No. 7 Massachusetts-Lowell to a 4-0 victory over Notre Dame in a Hockey East semifinal matchup at TD Garden in Boston.

The loss knocked the Irish out of the Hockey East tournament, but the team found out Sunday morning its season will continue in the NCAA tournament with a first-round matchup against No. 8 St. Cloud State.

Irish senior goalie Steven Summerhays guards the crease against Massachusetts-Lowell on Saturday. Summerhays allowed four goals.Michael Yu
Irish senior goalie Steven Summerhays guards the crease against Massachusetts-Lowell on Saturday. Summerhays allowed four goals.
With both the Irish and the River Hawks coming off of three-game quarterfinal series, Lowell struck first to take a 1-0 lead 10:13 into the first period. Sophomore defenseman Christian Folin sent a puck to the front of the Irish net that looked to be heading wide until it deflected off the skate of Irish senior defenseman Kevin Lind, who was clearing a Lowell forward from the front of the net, and sailed past Summerhays.

The goal was followed shortly after by a rocket of a wrist shot by River Hawks senior forward Derek Arnold that beat Summerhays to the glove side for a 2-0 lead.

“We thought it was going to be a low-scoring game, so to see them come out and score two quick goals like that is pretty frustrating,” senior center T.J. Tynan said. “You have to give a lot of credit to them. Even though we played pretty sluggish for the first half of the game, they played tight defense.”

The River Hawks added two insurance goals in the second period with freshman forward Evan Campbell converting a rebound on the power play at 3:35 and junior defenseman Zack Kamrass once again banking a shot off the skate of an Irish defenseman to beat Summerhays.

Despite outshooting Lowell 35-22, the Irish were unable to crack Hellebuyck, a first-team Hockey East selection who earned his second straight Hockey tournament MVP award after Lowell defeated New Hampshire 4-0 in the championship game Saturday to repeat as Hockey East champions.

“A couple of the goals went off of us, and that happened earlier in the year, but it hasn’t happened in the last few weeks, but when they get traffic to the net, that’s what happens,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “We didn’t have the same kind of traffic at the net.”

Though the Irish will continue their season in the NCAA tournament with a shot at a national title, Jackson said that the disappointment of not earning a conference championship would stick with his team.

“I’m a big believer that conference championships have a lot of meaning. You have to take advantage of it when you can,” Jackson said, “Conference championships used to be everything. That’s what we should all be striving for.”

Still, the Irish received a bit of a lift Sunday morning when the team watched live the announcement of brackets for the NCAA tournament and learned they would get another shot at a St. Cloud State team that knocked Notre Dame out of the tournament a year ago. Cheers erupted in the team auditorium in Compton Family Ice Arena as the team watched the selection show and saw the pairing of the Irish and the Huskies.

“We’re really excited to get another shot at St. Cloud,” senior defenseman Stephen Johns said. “I think we sort of let it slip through our hands last year, and it’s pretty exciting to get another crack at those guys.”

The Irish take on the Huskies at 9 p.m. Saturday at the XCel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

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