The Notre Dame Fighting Irish came into Saturday evening’s East regional final against the Providence Friars with the second straight Frozen Four trip on the line. In order for head coach Jeff Jackson and his team to avenge last season’s Frozen Four loss, they’d have to get past one of the few teams in the NCAA Tournament that can match the defensive and goaltending abilities of Notre Dame. Already having survived three straight nail biters, it was a safe bet that things wouldn’t get any less stressful for Irish fans in Saturday’s contest against their former Hockey East rival on a weekend where two number one seeds had already fallen.
Just like in their previous game, the Friars got on the board first and early when defenseman Tommy Davis carried the puck up the ice and took it around the net. The loose puck was found by Kasper Bjorkqvist who put it in the back of the net. Less than a minute after the goal, the Irish got their chance to tie the game back up when Providence was called for too many men on the ice. The Friars excellent penalty kill proved to be successful again, and the Friars kept the lead despite being short-handed.
Almost immediately after killing off the penalty, the Friars went on the power-play when Colin Theisen was called for goaltender interference at 05:17 in the period, but the Irish managed to get back to full strength without giving up another goal. Aggressive play continued, as Friars freshman forward Greg Printz was sent to the box for charger after a huge hit to Theisen. The hit was reviewed by the officiating team for contact to the head, but it remained a two minute power-play for the Irish. On the power-play, the Irish got good puck movement, but their best look at the net was blocked, and the penalty was killed off.
Cam Morrison was then called for hooking with just over seven minutes to go in the opening period. At this point, it became apparent that the officiating wasn’t going to be as loose as it was on Friday afternoon. The Irish again killed off the penalty. The battle of two great defenses proved to be true, as the teams ended the period with the Friars going over ten minutes without a shot on goal at one point, and the Irish getting very few scoring chances.
Through the first half of the second period, the Irish continued to dominate in shots on goal and face-offs, but couldn’t manage to even the score, as Providence continued to protect their net and help out goaltender Hayden Hawkey. Another goalie interference call came with 3:22 left in the period, when forward Ryan Tait was called for skating into Cale Morris as he was in the crease. The Irish changed things up on this power-play by having two skaters down low and it paid off. After getting plenty of pressure on Hawkey, Andrew Oglevie tied the game with just under two minutes to go before intermission.
The two goalies, both Colorado natives, made excellent saves in the final seconds of the period to keep the game tied. Early on in the third, a point blank shot from Jack Jenkins nearly gave the Irish the lead, but the puck couldn’t find its way past Hawkey. With just over eleven minutes left in regulation, the Irish again went on the man advantage after a holding call on Vimal Sukumaran. The patient and skilled Notre Dame power-play unit was able to get a few shots on goal, but couldn’t take the lead and the Friars got back to even strength. Both defenses continued to play outstanding throughout the third period, as both team would combine for only 45 shots in the game.
With under a minute left in regulation, Cal Burke picked up a loose puck which eventually found its way behind the net. It was there Burke dished it to a wide open Dylan Malmquist, who knocked it home to put the Irish up 2-1 with 27 seconds left. Malmquist frantically skated over to the Notre Dame bench to celebrate with his teammates.
The Friars pulled their goalie for the extra attacker, but that was all she wrote. The Irish become the first team in the NCAA Tournament to punch their ticket to St. Paul, Minnesota. Since the postseason began for the Irish, there has been a last minute hero in every game. On this evening, it would be the Minnesota native to send the Irish to the Frozen Four in his home state. The appearance marks the fourth Frozen Four appearance in school history, all under Jackson. They’ll meet either the Boston Terriers or Michigan Wolverines in the national semifinal. In an incredible the season, the Irish get the chance to avenge last year’s Frozen Four defeat. Celebrate it, boys!
PROV - Kasper Bjorkqvist from Tommy Davis at 02:02 in the 1st
ND - Andrew Oglevie on the PP from Jake Evans and Jordan Gross at 18:09 in the 2nd
ND - Dylan Malmquist from Cal Burke and Andrew Oglevie at 19:33 in the 3rd
ND - Cale Morris stopped 19 of 20 shots
PROV - Hayden Hawkey stopped 23 of 25 shots
PROV - Team penalty, 2 for too many players on ice at 02:54 in the 1st
ND - Colin Theisen, 2 for goaltender interference at 05:17 in the 1st
PROV - Greg Printz, 2 for charging at 09:28 in the 1st
ND - Cam Morrison, 2 for hooking at 12:52 in the 1st
PROV - Ryan Tait, 2 for goaltender interference at 16:38 in the 2nd
PROV - Vimal Sukumaran, 2 for holding at 08:55 in the 3rd
1. Dylan Malmquist
2. Kasper Bjorkqvist
3. Andrew Oglevie
The #1 Irish will take on the winner of the #2 Michigan Wolverines vs. #4 Boston Terriers in the Frozen Four on Thurs., April 5