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Irish defeat Golden Knights in NCAA tournament play

| Saturday, March 30, 2019

Cam Morrison is a man on a mission.

For the second consecutive game — and the third time in his career — the junior forward kept the Irish moving in March, as third-seeded Notre Dame topped No. 2 Clarkson in overtime in the first round of the NCAA Northeast Regional to advance to the final Saturday night.

While it was a perilous journey for the Irish as the team struggled with consistency at times over the year, head coach Jeff Jackson said earlier this week that the pressure helped his team deliver.

Ashton Bieri | The Observer
Irish junior forward Cam Morrison skates down the ice during Notre Dame’s 1-0 victory over Michigan State at Compton Family Ice Arena on March 8.

“In some ways the best thing that could’ve happened is that we got put in that position, and we just started focusing on the next game. Especially the later stages of the regular season, where it was almost like that,” Jackson said. “For us, I think that it really started back in February when it almost got to the point where it was like every game is the most important game.”

It was a defensive battle for both teams, as Notre Dame (23-13-3, 11-11-2 Big Ten) only allowed 22 shots on goal over 75 minutes.

The Irish had several great chances in the first period, but they were all well saved by Clarkson junior goalie Jake Kielly.

The breakthrough finally came five minutes into the second period, as junior forward Cal Burke received a pass from freshman forward Michael Graham and fired it across the goal to an open Colin Theisen. The sophomore forward made no mistake, ripping it home to give the Irish the lead.

But Clarkson (26-11-2, 13-7-2) stormed back with two goals of its own to give the Golden Knights a 2-1 lead heading into the third.

Looking down the barrel, the Irish pushed for an equalizer, but Clarkson’s defense held firm. With three minutes to go, Jackson elected to pull junior goalie Cale Morris to add an extra man and make a final push. Moments later, the Irish finally found the back of the net.

Burke and junior defenseman Andrew Peeke combined for a give-and-go that saw Burke driving on goal. The forward skated past one defenseman before flipping the puck to an onrushing Bobby Nardella, and the senior defenseman fired past Kielly to give Notre Dame life.

In overtime, both teams had great chances to win. First, it was Burke again for the Irish, and the junior was awarded a penalty shot after a penalty during a goal-scoring opportunity. With the game in his hands, Burke skated down and fired stick-side of Kielly, but the junior was up to the challenge and made the save. On the other side, Morris was forced to make eight saves, including on a wrister from the left dot by sophomore forward Jack Jacome.

With just over four minutes to go, Notre Dame finally delivered. Graham skated along the boards past several defenders towards goal, but Kielly parried the puck away before he could get a shot off. The puck fell right to Morrison, however, and the junior flipped a shot over Kielly’s left shoulder to give the Irish a chance at a third-straight Frozen Four.

Notre Dame now faces top-seeded University of Massachusetts Amherst. If the Irish can pull off the upset and make it back to the Frozen Four, Jackson said earlier this week that it would be validation for how his team has been overlooked.

“There was no talk about [that] we’ve been in the tournament four straight years, we’ve been in the Frozen Four twice,” he said. “This team hasn’t got the respect that I think they deserve, but maybe that motivates us. Maybe that helps us.”

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About Tobias Hoonhout

Toby served as Managing Editor in the 2018-2019 term.

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