Irish succumb to stunning late comeback at Duke
Greg McKenna | Friday, April 23, 2021
Almost two weeks after Notre Dame made Kevin Corrigan the winningest head coach in Division-I history with a home victory over then-No. 1 Duke, the rematch between the No. 2 Irish and No. 3 Blue Devils in Durham Thursday night followed an almost identical plotline to the first showdown for over 50 minutes.
For almost three-and-a-half quarters, Notre Dame graduate student defender Jack Kielty and the Irish defense again held Duke’s fifth ranked offense nationally, led by graduate student attackman and Tewaaraton Award candidate Michael Sowers, largely in check.
Notre Dame again appeared to amass a comfortable second-half advantage, leading 10-5 near the end of the 3rd quarter and 12-7 with under nine minutes to go.
Duke (12-1, 4-1 ACC), however, would score five unanswered goals, including two from Sowers in the final minute of regulation, to force overtime before sparsely-used senior attackman Cameron Mule scored an acrobatic game-winner to hand the Irish (6-2, 2-2 ACC) a stunning 13-12 defeat.
Sowers, handling the ball behind the cage on a man-up opportunity, spotted the cutting Mule. Playing in just his sixth game of the season, Mule caught Sowers’ pass and ripped his only shot of the night mid-jump past Irish sophomore goalie Liam Entenmann with just over two minutes left in overtime for the sudden-death victory.
Notre Dame never had an opportunity on offense in overtime after losing the initial faceoff. Duke was able to keep possession and renew the shot clock after a save by Entenmann and errant effort by Sowers both went out-of-bounds. A holding penalty from Irish senior midfielder Ryan Hallenbeck gave the Blue Devils their first man-up opportunity of night with 2:23 to go, which Mule ensured would prove decisive.
Despite conceding the tying goal in regulation with just 14 seconds left in the fourth, Notre Dame thought they had won the game through sophomore attackman Pat Kavanagh.
With under eight seconds to go, Kavanagh bypassed Blue Devils’ graduate student defenseman JT Giles-Harris, but lost his shoe in the process. As Kavanagh slotted home the apparent game-winner, the officials blew the play dead for an equipment malfunction, even though Kavanagh had kept playing after Giles-Harris stepped on and dislodged the shoe while failing to prevent the Irish attackman from blowing past him.
With the victory, the Blue Devils improved to 3-0 in overtime this season, with the other sudden death victories coming against then-No.2 North Carolina and in their last time out against then-No. 4 Virginia, respectively.
The Irish, specifically Kavanagh, were rampant in the early going. Kavanagh, who leads the Irish in both goals and assists, recorded a hat trick in the first quarter alone as the Irish raced out to a 5-0 lead with just under 13 minutes left in the second quarter.
Kavanagh, who leads the country in assists per game, was involved in all of Notre Dame’s seven first-half goals. The Rockville Centre, N.Y. native was kept off the offensive stat sheet in the second half, however, finishing with four goals and three assists.
Notre Dame entered the locker room at halftime with a 7-3 advantage.
Sowers led the Blue Devils with four goals to accompany his game-winning assist. Besides Kavanagh and Sowers, Duke senior midfielder Nakeie Montgomery was the only other man on the field to record a hat trick.
Two of those goals came in the fourth quarter, the first of which initiated the Blue Devils’ rally with 8:12 to go.
Notre Dame will now make the short trip to Chapel Hill and look to rebound vs. No. 4 North Carolina Sunday at 2 p.m. The game will air on the ACC Network.