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Notre Dame MLax: Huge NCAA opening win over Air Force

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The Irish rose to the occasion and played their best and most complete game of the year.

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Wow.  The Irish win their first-round game against #13 Air Force, 15-7, in glorious fashion, and dominating every facet of the game on a very cold South Bend evening.  Mikey Wynne was brilliant on the crease with five goals, Ryder Garnsey added a hat trick, Brendan Collins added four assists, and, in total, nine different Irish players scored.

The Irish had more shots, more ground balls, more saves, fewer turnovers, and won the faceoff battle taking 17 of 26.  The ride was effective and they scored on 3 of 4 extra man opportunities. Notre Dame had a few more turnovers to give us a small thing to criticize, but their total wasn't bad.

What was most noticeable was the 11 assists by a team than has long relied on unassisted goals.  They've gone a month without 11 assists, so in one game they proved to themselves they can manufacture high-percentage shots.  They shot 40% for the game against one of the statistically best defenses in the country.

It's tournament time so we limited the game keys to a simple survive and advance, but all the usual themes were addressed.  Passes were crisp and accurate, the ride and its close cousin, faceoff wing play, were excellent, the whole depth of the Irish offense was on the scoresheet, and the 6-on-6 offense was nothing like we have seen all year.  We saw glimpses of this last week against Army, but it was truly firing on all cylinders Saturday evening.

Game notes:

*Ryder Garnsey looks to be the successor to Matt Kavanagh in that he scores one highlight reel goal after another.  If he can develop the vision to generate assists at the same level as the King of Clutch, the next three years will be fun to watch. As much as we have hoped he would develop new moves to his arsenal, we have to admit his stock low-to-high lefty whip is something we will never tire watching.

*Mikey Wynne is regaining his early season scoring touch, shooting 50% today.  Absolutely wonderful.

*The defense was magnificent.  They maintained a choke hold on the Falcons all game long.  We were amused by the television commentators' reference to the defense become a wide "moat."  It was a fitting descriptor, as the Falcons could get nowhere near the cage.

*#MattLandisTewaaraton got a huge shout-out.  Landis had an awesome game, shutting down a whole half of the defensive end. We were very pleased at the amount of time the commentators spent talking about why he is so good and why he is a legitimate Tewaaraton candidate very worthy of being in the same sentence as Dylan Molloy and Conor Cannizarro.  The five finalists will be announced at halftime of the Syracuse/Albany game.

*In addition to Notre Dame, Brown, UNC, and Loyola punched their ticket to the quarterfinals.

*Air Force goalie Doug Gouchoe deserves special mention for standing tall to a Sergio Perkovic shot that would have forced most goalies to quit the game.  The defender covering Perkovic fell and no one was nearby to slide to help, leaving Sergio wide open to fully step into a shot, completely unhindered, from about 8 yards out.   The Air Force defenders parted like the Red Sea but Gouchoe held his ground. The fact that he did not make the save makes no difference to us.  He stood up to a 110 mph shot at point-blank range and stood tall in the face of it knowing what was coming.  We don't mention this to rub salt into wounds.  What Gouchoe did was hard core.

The Fighting Irish earned a rematch against North Carolina for next weekend, to be played at Ohio Stadium in Columbus , Ohio.  North Carolina eliminated Marquette in an close 10-9 win.  The fellas will be looking for sweet revenge to get them into the Final Four.  In their earlier devastating loss, they played what was to that point their best 40 or so minutes of lacrosse, only to play their worst 10 by far immediately thereafter.  As good as those early minutes against UNC were, the entirety of the Air Force game surpassed it.