“They did it again!”
These words were yelled by ESPN play-by-play announcer John Buccigross just seconds after Notre Dame captain Jake Evans snuck a puck under the legs of Michigan goaltender Hayden Lavigne to give the Notre Dame Fighting Irish a 4-3 lead with 5.2 seconds left in regulation during Thursday night’s Frozen Four semifinal game against their conference-rival, the Michigan Wolverines. The goal proved to be the game winner as the Irish defeated the Wolverines 4-3 to advance to Saturday’s National Championship Game against the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs.
Thursday night’s win marks the fifth consecutive game that Notre Dame won with a goal either in the final minute of regulation or in overtime, dating back to the start of the Big Ten Tournament.
Notre Dame's 5 straight 1-goal wins. Time of winning goal:— College Hockey News (@chnews) April 6, 2018
Big Ten semis ... 31 seconds left
Big Ten finals ... OT
NCAA 1st Round ... OT
NCAA 2nd Round ... 27 seconds
NCAA Semis ... 5 seconds
This will be the second time in program history Notre Dame will play in the title game. The previous instance came exactly ten years ago in 2008 when the Irish fell to Boston College 4-1. To get to that game, Notre Dame also had to beat Michigan in the semifinal, which they did 5-4 in overtime.
Many expected this year’s game to be just as close, and they were proven right.
Michigan struck first with a goal by Tony Calderone 8:19 into the game to put the Wolverines up 1-0. Michigan’s top line of Calderone, Cooper Marody and Dexter Dancs gave Notre Dame fits early in the period, but the Irish were able to regain their footing and finish the period with a few strong chances. However, none of them were able to beat Lavigne and period ended 1-0 in favor of Michigan.
The start of the second delivered an almost disastrous blow to Notre Dame. Just 17 seconds into the second frame, a wide shot by Dancs bounced off of the shoulder of Notre Dame defenseman Dennis Gilbert and past Notre Dame goaltender Cale Morris to give Michigan a 2-0 lead.
Two and a half minutes into the second period, Notre Dame got a power play opportunity when Michigan’s Joseph Cecconi was sent off for holding. The Irish took advantage when a blocked shot found Evans, who passed it to an open Andrew Oglevie near the left point. Oglevie’s wrist shot beat Lavigne to put Notre Dame on the board 2-1 at 2:41 of the second.
The Irish didn’t waste any time tying the game. Less than four minutes later, defenseman Jordan Gross set up Evans for a one-timer that found the back of the Michigan net to equal the score at 2-2 with 13:40 left in the second period.
The game would remain tied going into the third period. However, just 1:35 into the third, a Cal Burke one-timer snuck past Lavigne to give Notre Dame their first lead of the night at 3-2.
After the goal, Notre Dame played defensive for most of the period, trying to lock down Michigan’s offensive attack and put away the win. They were unable to, however, as Michigan was able to find the equalizer. A mad-rush in front of Morris led to several failed attempts by the Irish to clear the puck. The puck eventually found the stick of Michigan’s Michael Pastujov, who buried it behind Morris to tie the score 3-3 with 5:12 left in regulation.
Both teams had strong scoring chances during the frantic final minutes of the third period, but both Morris and Lavigne were up to the challenge. The game seemed destined to go into overtime, just like the epic Frozen Four semifinal game between Notre Dame-Michigan ten years earlier.
Jake Evans and Cam Morrison had other plans.
With just 12.2 seconds left in regulation, Evans was able to get the puck out of the defensive zone and start a 2-on-2 rush with Morrison. Evans passed the puck to Morrison across the neutral zone. Morrison carried it across the blue-line and passed it back to a trailing Evans in front of the Michigan goal. Evans was able to sneak a shot between the legs of Michigan’s stellar freshman defenseman Quinn Hughes. The puck snuck under Lavigne’s right pad and into the goal to give Notre Dame the lead with 5.2 seconds left and put the crowd into a frenzy.
The Irish killed off the final seconds to clinch their birth in the National Championship Game.
Notre Dame finished with the advantage in shots 29-28. Morris stopped 25 of 28 shots, while Lavigne stopped 25 of 29.
Evans finished the night with two goals and an assist. Oglevie recorded a goal and an assist, and Gross grabbed two assists during the win.
UM – Tony Calderone from Dexter Dancs and Cooper Marody at 8:19 of the 1st
UM – Dexter Dancs from Tony Calderone and Joseph Cecconi at 0:17 of the 2nd
ND – Andrew Oglevie on the power play from Jake Evans and Jordan Gross at 2:41 of the 2nd
ND – Jake Evans from Jordan Gross at 6:20 of the 2nd
ND – Cal Burke from Dylan Malmquist and Andrew Oglevie at 1:35 of the 3rd
UM – Michael Pastujov from Jack Becker and Nick Pastujov at 14:38 of the 3rd
ND – Jake Evans from Cam Morrison and Jack Jenkins at 19:54 of the 3rd
ND – Cale Moris stopped 25 of 28 shots
UM – Hayden Lavigne stopped 25 of 29 shots
UM – Cooper Marody, 2 for hooking at 0:34 of the 1st
UM – Joseph Cecconi, 2 for holding at 2:32 of the 2nd
UM – Quinn Hughes, 2 for roughing at 4:28 of the 2nd
ND – Colin Theisen, 2 for roughing at 4:28 of the 2nd
ND – Dawson Cook, 2 for hooking at 10:02 of the 2nd
ND – Andrew Peeke, 2 for cross-checking at 15:12 of the 2nd
ND – Jack Jenkins, 2 for hooking at 8:15 of the 3rd
Notre Dame will play for a national championship when they take on Minnesota-Duluth in Saturday’s title game. The game can be watched on ESPN at 7:30 p.m. EST Saturday night. A win would give Notre Dame their first National Championship in program history.