Irish upset Minnesota, UMass-Lowell to reach first Frozen Four since 2011
Alex Bender | Monday, March 27, 2017
After a hectic weekend in Manchester, New Hampshire, the fourth-seeded Irish emerged as the lone survivor in the Northeast Regional, coming from behind to win 3-2 against both No. 1 Minnesota and No. 2 UMass Lowell, to secure the team’s third trip to the Frozen Four in school history.
Coming into the tournament Saturday, the Irish (23-11-5, 12-6-4 Hockey East) were matched up against top-seeded Minnesota (23-12-3, 14-5-1 Big 10), a team they had yet to face this season, but had played for the past seven season. Early on, it was all Minnesota as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead 30 seconds into the second period. But the Irish responded through sophomore Andrew Oglevie, who scored with at 14:39 in the second off a long pass from junior goaltender Cal Petersen, cutting the deficit in half. Not even a minute later, junior and Hobey Baker Award finalist Anders Bjork netted one himself to tie the game up to set up a dramatic ending. At 8:42 of the third, Notre Dame scored their third unanswered goal, as Bjork got his second of the game on the power play, giving the Irish a 3-2 lead that they did not surrender, escaping with the upset and securing their spot in the regional final against UMass Lowell (27-11-3, 14-7-1). Head coach Jeff Jackson said he was happy with his team’s ability to come back against a strong opponent.
“Very pleased with the comeback effort. It showed a lot of character by our guys,” Jackson said. “Obviously it was a couple of key turning points in the game for us … lot of credit to the guys for showing a lot of character in a tough situation.”
The regional felt a little more personal against the River Hawks of UMass Lowell, a Hockey East rival who dismantled the Irish 5-1 only a week prior in the conference semifinals, Bjork said in his post-game comments after Minnesota.
“We definitely are grateful for another opportunity at Lowell here,” Bjork said. “They’re a great team and they play hard, so I think we’re excited to match their intensity and keep going with that same energy we had tonight.”
On Sunday afternoon, Notre Dame did just as Bjork had predicted, skating with the River Hawks the entire sixty minutes and then some, before pulling out the 3-2 victory in overtime to secure the team’s spot in the Frozen Four. Things started for the Irish when forward Cam Morrison was hit with a breakaway pass from Bjork, and the freshman managed to finish off his own rebound to give the Irish the advantage. But Lowell was able to answer with 1:02 in the first, and after a scoreless second period with great goaltending at both ends, the River Hawks managed to get the puck past Petersen to take a 2-1 lead, leaving the Irish with their backs against the wall. Notre Dame responded, however, as Morrison came crashing in with five minutes left in regulation to grab a loose puck and tie things up. The Irish pushed for a winner, and only 2:44 into overtime, Bjork won a battle on the boards before making a slipping the puck to an open Oglevie who buried the game winner, sending Lowell home and securing Notre Dame’s spot in Chicago. Cal Petersen stood strong in net throughout the contest, coming up with 27 saves on 29 shots.
The Irish will look to continue their run in the Frozen Four on April 6 when they will look to secure a third straight upset when they take on Denver. Action gets underway at 9:30 p.m. and can be watched on ESPN2.