Losing their grip
Zach Klonsinski | Wednesday, October 29, 2014
A chill in the air means the postseason is near and the action Wednesday night matched that atmosphere, as No. 5 Notre Dame and No. 12 Michigan State played to a 1-1 draw at Alumni Stadium.Last year the Irish (9-4-3, 5-1-1 ACC) beat the Spartans (9-3-4, 3-1-2 Big Ten) in the NCAA quarterfinals, 2-1, to advance to their first ever College Cup and eventually the program’s first NCAA championship. Junior midfielder Evan Panken tallied the lone goal for the Irish in the rematch.
“It was disappointing not to pick up points but full marks to [Michigan State],” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “They’re one of the best teams in this region and it was always going to be a difficult game.”
Michigan State entered the match with one of the nation’s stingiest defense, allowing 0.51 goals per game and shutting out opponents in 10 of its last 15 games prior to Wednesday night. The Irish were able to mount some early pressure, however, when graduate student defender Luke Mishu cut in from his right-back position and sent a shot curling towards the lower-left corner of the net. Spartan junior goalkeeper Zach Bennett was able to make a diving stop, sending the ball just wide of the post.
Bennett was up to the task again a few minutes later, tipping a sharp-angle shot from Irish senior forward Vince Cicciarelli up and over the bar.
“We played so well in the first half,” Clark said. “I thought the first half was possibly our best opening performance of the season. We really controlled the game from the start.”
Michigan State responded with a chance of its own in the 25th minute as Spartan junior midfielder Jason Stacy had his 25-yard free kick directed inches wide of the post by a diving Irish graduate student goalkeeper Patrick Wall.
“Pat’s a terrific goalkeeper,” Clark said. “He’s like a coach at the back … he’s been a fantastic goalkeeper for us.”
The Irish registered their third strong scoring chance of the half in the 35th minute when a corner was headed around the box and fell at the feet of sophomore defender Brandon Aubrey. Aubrey got an attempt off, but Bennett and three Spartan defenders formed a wall that kept the ball out and the match scoreless heading into halftime.
Picking up where the Irish left off, Mishu threw a long header into the Spartan penalty box three minutes into the second half where senior midfielder Nick Besler headed it towards Panken at the far post. His six-yard header was stopped by Bennett, for the Spartan keeper’s sixth save of the night.
Notre Dame broke through in the 56th minute when junior midfielder Patrick Hodan sent a pass from the end line to Panken just inside the six-yard box. Panken’s first close range shot was stopped by Bennett, but he was able to control the rebound and bury his third goal of the season between Bennett and the near post.“It was good to see Evan getting another goal,” Clark said. “He’s just got a nose for the goal. … It was a nice goal and it put us ahead.
In the 75th minute, Spartan junior midfielder Jay Chapman sent a header just over the net. Three minutes later redshirt senior defender Ryan Keener headed the ball off the post.
“We scored, then we actually played quite well for a bit,” Clark said. “Then they brought on the second forward and I thought we lost our grip on the game for a seven, eight minute period.”
Finally the Irish defense gave way. In the 80th minute, a Keener header off a corner generated a rebound that redshirt senior forward Tim Kreutz put past Wall for his third goal of the season and the match equalizer.
“We were too deep and gave up a bad goal,” said Aubrey. “We just didn’t want to lose in overtime, but we still went forward some.”
The match would head to overtime, where Michigan State junior midfielder Jay Chapman had the first opportunity but was turned away by Wall. Fellow Spartan senior forward Adam Montague made a run that split the Notre Dame defense, but the ball edged out far enough in front of him for Wall to pounce and deny any shot.
Notre Dame’s chance came with less than a minute in the first overtime period, when freshman forward Jeffrey Farina made a run to the endline, and then crossed a ball into the box. Mishu got a header on target, but Bennett snatched it from just under the crossbar. The second extra period provided no real strong chances for either side.
Michigan State ended up outshooting the Irish 16-15, but Notre Dame held the advantage in shots on goal, 10-6. Bennett registered nine saves while Wall made six for the Irish.
Notre Dame travels to play Pittsburgh on Saturday in their final match of the regular season with a chance to clinch the ACC regular-season title.
“You don’t need any motivation to win a league title,” Clark said. “It’s very important we now finish the season with a win at Pittsburgh.”
“We’ll try and keep the same mentality of coming out with our hair-on-fire and try and take it to them,” Aubrey said. “If we just come out and do what we are capable of the result will come.”
The Irish will look for that blazing start when they take on Pittsburgh on Saturday at 7 p.m.