Notre Dame wins regional, advances to Frozen Four for second consecutive year
Michael Ivey | Monday, March 26, 2018
This weekend at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut, No. 1 seed Notre Dame won the East Regional of the NCAA tournament with two thrilling victories over fourth-seeded Michigan Tech and second-seeded Providence to clinch a spot in the Frozen Four for the second consecutive season and the fourth time in program history.
“I’m extremely proud of our guys,” Jackson said. “They’ve been resilient all year long. They call them the cardiac kids for a reason. Hopefully it’s not my cardiac, but they find a way to win. Regardless of the situation, they find a way to win.”
The Irish (27-9-2, 17-6-1 Big Ten) faced off against WCHA champion Michigan Tech in the first round. After a scoreless first period, the Huskies (22-17-5, 12-11-5 WCHA) got on the board first after a goal by senior forward Joel L’Esperance just 1:13 into the second frame to go up 1-0.
Notre Dame had a quick answer, however, when junior forward Dylan Malmquist snuck the puck past unsuspecting junior Huskies goaltender Patrick Munson just 2:27 later to tie the score 1-1. The Irish took the lead less than four minutes later when a pass from freshman forward Colin Theisen found junior forward Joe Wegwerth in front of the net, who buried the puck behind Munson to give Notre Dame a 2-1 lead with 12:56 left in the second period.
The Irish carried the one-goal lead into the third period, but Michigan Tech knotted the score just 56 seconds into the third with a goal by sophomore forward Gavin Gould. A cross-checking penalty by Michigan Tech at the 5:16 mark gave Notre Dame a power play opportunity that it didn’t waste.
A slapshot by senior defenseman Jordan Gross from the point found the back of the net and gave the Irish a 3-2 lead with 13:41 left in the third.
With under two minutes left in regulation, the Huskies pulled their goaltender for the extra-attacker. With just 1:06 on the clock, a shot by junior Huskies forward Jake Jackson snuck its way past Notre Dame sophomore goaltender Cale Morris to tie the game and stun the crowd.
Going into overtime, Notre Dame needed a goal to avoid the upset and keep its season alive. A heart-pounding extra period ensued, featuring back-and-forth action and close scoring chances on both sides of the ice.
Sixteen minutes into overtime, a Michigan Tech rush led to the puck trickling past Morris, but junior forward Jack Jenkins was able to poke the puck away before it could cross the goal line. After the puck made its way to the point, a Michigan Tech player attempted to blast it into the Notre Dame net, but his stick broke during the shot attempt which allowed the puck to glide into the neutral zone.
Sophomore forward Cam Morrison made the effort to turn the play into a breakaway attempt, but his shot was denied by Munson. Staying in the zone, the puck eventually found Gross at the point. Gross’ slapshot went into the Michigan Tech goal for the game-winner, sending Notre Dame through to the next round.
After the game, Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson reflected on the incredible effort by both teams and talked about the opportunity to advance to the Frozen Four.
“We are pleased to have the opportunity to continue our season,” Jackson said. “It was a tough, hard fought game. A lot of credit goes to Michigan Tech. The game could have gone either way. We got good goaltending and found a way to score timely goals. That’s exactly what happened tonight.”
In the Regional Final against Providence (24-14-4, 13-7-4 Hockey East) on Saturday, Notre Dame found itself trailing early when sophomore forward Kasper Bjorkqvist knocked the puck past Morris to give Providence a 1-0 lead just 2:02 into the game. The rest of the first and most of the second period passed by before Notre Dame could provide an answer, but the Irish were finally able to when junior forward Andrew Oglevie fired the puck past junior Friar goaltender Hayden Hawkey on the power play to even the score 1-1 with only 1:51 left in the second frame.
Both teams entered the third period determined to get the go-ahead goal that could send them to the Frozen Four. After a hard-fought, tense 19 minutes, Notre Dame had the puck in the offensive zone when Oglevie dumped the puck to sophomore forward Cal Burke behind the Providence goal. Burke made the quick feed to Malmquist in front of the goal, who shot it past Hawkey to give Notre Dame a 2-1 lead with 27 seconds left in regulation. The Irish were able to kill off the final seconds to punch their ticket to Minneapolis.
Now moving on to the program’s fourth Final Four, Jackson said last year’s loss to Denver in the Frozen Four could be beneficial to his team for this year’s appearance.
“I don’t know if it’s unfinished business,” Jackson said. “I think the biggest thing is that we were mesmerized by the moment last year. That group of kids had never been there before. We played a team in Denver that had played the year before in (the Frozen Four). That experience is hopefully going to help us as we move forward.”
Notre Dame will play in the national semifinal on April 5 against Michigan for a spot in the national championship game on April 7 at the Xcel Energy Center in Minneapolis.