In which we recap the day’s events in the NCAA tournament.
MANCHESTER, N.H. — In a lot of ways, this seemed predestined.
Since Notre Dame came to Hockey East four years ago, there’s no team they’ve played more than UMass Lowell, and no team has run their show to such a dramatic extent. Entering Sunday’s contest, to determine who would go to the Frozen Four, the Fighting Irish had just two wins and two ties in 13 meetings with Lowell. They were outscored 36-18. The River Hawks eliminated them from the conference playoffs three times in as many meetings.
So for things to end 3-2 to Notre Dame, in overtime on a goal by Andrew Ogelvie, in this final meeting as conferencemates? Well, of course it happened.
“It was a great game; Lowell is a tremendous team,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “I said it last night: they’re the best team we’ve played this year. That holds true. I think that playing them two weeks ago helped us tonight, just knowing the way we have to play.”
One imagines that the history between these two teams takes up a lot of psychic real estate for all involved. How can Lowell not enter these games feeling like a win is fated? How can Notre Dame do so not feeling like they’d down a goal from the outset?
And much like previous meetings Lowell had a certain amount of territorial say-so, but didn’t do as much with that time as the Irish did with their slightly smaller amount of zone time. Through two periods, scoring chances at 5-on-5 were deadlocked at 13 apiece.
That was a big change of pace; in their previous meeting a week earlier, Lowell had outchanced Notre Dame 29-7 across a comprehensive 5-1 mauling. The big difference? Lowell wasn’t getting bodies to the front of the net.
And much like that game last week, it was the underdog that got on the board first. Notre Dame got on the board through a Cam Morrison breakaway goal, and led for a little more than seven minutes, but conceded with 1:02 left in the first period to enter the intermission effectively no better off than they’d started it.
“I thought we passed up on a few shots early in the game,” Lowell coach Norm Bazin said. “We tried to get way too cute and that came back to bite us. We need to put some more shots on net and even around the net to capitalize. I didn’t think we sustained as much o ensive zone time as we did in the semi nal. So those are all things we’ll have to watch in the summer and get better at.”
Meanwhile, the Tyler Wall (25 saves in the game) and Cal Petersen (27 saves of his own) were locked in a goaltending duel. Both were turning in their now-characteristic good performances, as you might expect in a low-scoring tie game. Even the goals weren’t their fault, necessarily; Notre Dame’s came on a second-chance opportunity on Morrison’s breakaway (Wall got the first attempt with his left pad) and Lowell’s on a netfront play that Petersen couldn’t have been reasonably asked to stop.
Both also made huge saves on high-percentage chances, of which there was a nearly even split in the game, 24-23. Notre Dame’s last one broke the deadlock and won the game.
“I thought Wall played outstanding,” Jackson said. “I have certain expectations for Cal and he’s the rock back there. He had a rough game against Lowell last week. I talked to him about it and I think it was the rst week of the season that we haven’t watched clips because I didn’t want to watch those clips from the Lowell game with him.”
One of the things Lowell’s opponents tend to say in loss after loss is, “We made a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes today,” which after a while starts to sound like, “Lowell forces a lot of mistakes.” Their forecheck is heavy, their transition defense is layered. The next team to consistently get the puck through the neutral zone with clean possession against Lowell will be the first in quite a while.
At the same time, their opportunism, ability to regroup and open seams, and keep play alive in the offensive zone is what Lowell hockey is all about. And that came to bear around the middle of the third period. Several straight shifts were just Lowell keeping the puck in the Notre Dame end for 30, 45 seconds, a clear-out, and another zone entry that led to prolonged pressure.
That led, eventually, to a John Edwardh deflection goal out of some netfront traffic. Classic Lowell, pressuring and wearing down Notre Dame.
What came next was not classic. Notre Dame pushed back, did the same thing Lowell had done. Then equalized just 3:05 later, with another goal from Cam Morrison.
Lowell had controlled the balance of the game, albeit marginally after Notre Dame’s big third-period push. Where the River Hawks had held these same opponents to only seven 5-on-5 shot attempts from dangerous areas a nine days earlier, it conceded 23 through 60 minutes, and “only” had 22 of its own. Offensively, Notre Dame was doing to Lowell what Lowell does to everyone.
“If I had to change anything, I felt we went into too much of a lull with seven minutes to go,” Bazin said. “We started playing defensive hockey only, and when we don’t attack, we’re not as good a team.”
Things were not going according to the same old script.
“We were playing desperate and we were dialed in,” Ogelvie said. “Every shift we got we needed to make it count and I think we just did all the little things right. We knew that going in on the fore check was going to be a huge factor. So we just decided that we were going to get the puck down the ice and we did that. It opened up a lot of good opportunities for us and hopefully we’ll continue that.”
But with the game headed to overtime, and having been so evenly played, this was — against all apparent odds — now officially a coin flip. For Lowell, it came up tails for the third time in 14 games.
Ogelvie got a nice little pass from Anders Bjork (who had the primary assist on all three Notre Dame goals, and was his team’s runaway MVP of the weekend and entire season) and put a bullet in Lowell’s season 2:44 into the overtime period.
“This one for us stings,” Bazin said. “I felt that the group inside that locker room was good enough to be the best team at the end of the year. [Notre Dame] certainly got the OT goal and we find ourselves on the outside looking in.”
Tough time of year for things to flip around on you like that.
Denver 6, Penn State 3
Denver opened a quick 2-0 lead just over seven minutes into this game, but Penn State tied it early in the second period. Then Troy Terry decided he’d had enough of that. He scored to put Denver up for good 4:28 later, picked up a primary assist on another goal, then scored again before the second period ended.
Though James Gobetz cut the lead to 5-3 midway through the third, Terry salted it away with an empty netter.
Henrik Borgstrom had three assists for the Pioneers, and Tanner Jaillett made 24 saves.
On the other bench, three different guys from Penn State had goals, but Peyton Jones conceded five goals on 27 shots. Not exactly a recipe for success.
1. Troy Terry, Denver
A hat trick and two assists on six Denver goals is a pretty good way to get your team to Chicago.
2. Cal Petersen, Notre Dame
Lowell didn’t cause him nearly enough headaches, but he still had 27 saves on 29 shots against one of the best offenses in the country. He good.
3. Cam Morrison
He scored two of Notre Dame’s three goals, and that is a good number of goals to score when your opponent only scores two total.
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