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Irish advance to Big Ten championship game with overtime win against Gophers

| Monday, March 18, 2019

Fifty-three seconds.

For 53 seconds, a shallow fear filled Compton Family Ice Arena as the home team was just one goal away from advancing to the Big Ten final or one goal from virtually the end of their season. For 53 seconds, there was panic. For 53 seconds, there was doubt.

But after 53 seconds of overtime, the Irish punched their ticket to the Big Ten Championship game for the second season in a row.

This past Saturday night, No. 2 Notre Dame (21-13-3, 11-11-2 Big Ten) hosted No. 3 Minnesota (18-16-4, 11-10-3) in the semifinal game of the Big Ten hockey tournament. Both teams came into the matchup hot off a series sweep, besting Michigan State and Michigan, respectively.

The game got off to a great start for the Irish who got on the board just two minutes into the first period when junior forward Mike O’Leary drove in from the right flank and sent a pass to junior forward Cam Morrison who was cutting in for a shot on goal. The puck deflected off of Morrison’s upper body and caught junior Gopher goalie Mat Robson by surprise when it slid into the back of the net. After several minutes of video review, the Irish were awarded the goal.

Ann Curtis | The Observer
Irish sophomore forward Colin Theisen races towards the action during Notre Dame‘s 5-2 win over Michigan on Feb. 12 in Compton Family Ice Arena.

Minnesota struck back when freshman forward Sampo Ranta connected on a pass and fired a one-timer through the legs of Irish junior goalie Cale Morris. Scoring on their first shot of the game, the Gophers tied it at one all 5:44 into the first period, briefly silencing the sold-out crowd of 4,882 and halting the Irish momentum.

Both teams went on to get several more solid looks before the end of the frame.

Ann Curtis | The Observer
Irish senior forward Dylan Malmquist moves the puck along the ice during Notre Dame‘s 5-1 win at home over RPI on Nov. 30.

Both teams had power plays in the second period, but neither capitalized. The remainder of the game was a battle of the goalies. 

Irish freshman forward Michael Graham praised the work of his goalie.

“[Cale Morris’ performance] was incredible. Just save after save. We screwed up a few times there in the second [period] and the third [period] but he had our back. It’s just who he is,” Graham said.

And after 60 minutes of relentless play in both cages, the game headed into overtime.

The overtime period began — and ended — in a nightmare for Minnesota. Senior forward Tyler Sheehy was penalized for a controversial hooking violation, and Notre Dame quickly capitalized on the power play.

Graham, originally from Minnesota, skated from the right side of the ice around the back of the goal and onto the left side of the ice. He eluded the Gopher defense and got a shot off toward the inside-left corner. Twenty-two seconds after Sheehy’s penalty, the Irish had converted their first and only shot of overtime into the game-winning goal.

Morris was excited to see that his team is progressing well, especially this time of year.

“We’re definitely trending in the right direction at this time of year,“ the Notre Dame goalie said. “It’s exciting playoff hockey so, it was awesome to get this win and keep the season going. We’re excited for next weekend.“

Following a 5-1 win on the road against top-seeded Ohio State on Sunday, No. 4 Penn State will visit Notre Dame this Saturday night for the Big Ten Championship game. The Irish split the last two games of the regular season against the Nittany Lions (22-14-2, 11-12-1 Big Ten), but Notre Dame will look to stay undefeated in Big Ten playoff action and claim its second straight conference title.

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