The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have spent their entire postseason (both the Big 10 tournament, the NCAA Tournament, and the Frozen Four) living up to the cardiac cats nickname that was given to them by head coach Jeff Jackson. Earlier in the week, Jackson was named national coach of the year. A couple days later, sensational goaltender Cale Morris won the Mike Richter Award for the nation’s best goaltender. There was only one trophy left to put in the case for the Irish this season, and that was the ultimate prize of winning the national championship by defeating the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs in the hometown of Notre Dame legend Lefty Smith.
Through most of the opening period, the ECAC officiating crew was allowing physical play for both sides with no one being sent to the box. Midway thorough the first, Kobe Roth was squared up to the 6’1, 220 pound Justin Wade and spun to avoid the hit, but was clobbered by Wade and went down. He was eventually helped to the locker room. Shortly after the injury to Roth there was some pushing shoving by both teams near the Notre Dame bench.
The Irish could not create any transition in their own zone, while the Bulldogs did a great job of putting pressure on the Irish. Playing in his 164th straight game, Bulldogs captain Karson Kuhlman faked a slap shot and got a little closer to take a wrist shot that beat Morris glove side 9:06 into the contest. For the fourth straight game in the tournament, ND gave up the first goal of the game.
The Irish got more pressure on the Bulldogs toward the end of the period, but it wasn’t enough to tie the game and just 81 seconds before intermission, Minnesota-Duluth would increase their lead. A right goal line shot thrown on goal was let in by Morris. The goal was unlike any other Cale has give up all season, it went between the left leg and the left shoulder of the goaltender and the crossbar.
With just over 17 seconds left in the period, the first penalty of the game was called when Nick Swaney was pulled down by Mike O’Leary. The Bulldogs came into the game ranked 7th in the nation on the man advantage at 23.6%. On the broken power-play, they would see a Notre Dame penalty kill that was ranked 2nd in the nation giving up only 13 goals all season.
The Bulldogs had out-shot the Irish 10-7 as the puck dropped for the second period with 1:43 remaining on their power-play. Despite getting a few good looks at the net, the Bulldogs weren’t able to increase their lead. However, before killing off the penalty, the Irish had another delayed penalty when Jordan Gross was called for tripping at 2:19. The Irish were able to kill the penalty off again and keep it 2-0.
Shortly after the Irish killed off their second penalty, they finally went on a man advantage of their own when Louie Roehl was called for at 4:35 into the period. The Bulldogs killed off the penalty, but their leading scorer Scott Perunovich was called for interference at 7:08 and the Irish once again went on the man advantage.
On the power-play, a Cam Morrison touch pass went to Andrew Oglevie who found the back of the net to get the Irish to within one goal at 7:40. The goal was reviewed to determine if the Irish were offside, but it stood. The power-play goal was Oglevie’s ninth of the season.
At 10:02 of the period, a questionable call to Colin Theisen for tripping once again put the Irish on the penalty kill. The officiating crew reviewed the penalty for a major due to possible knee to knee contact. After a lengthy review, the officiating crew determined it didn’t appear to be intentional and the Minnesota-Duluth power-play would be two minutes rather than five. The Notre Dame penalty once again stepped up, keeping it a one goal game.
The Irish played a much better second period, which included a couple of near misses by Oglevie to tie the game late in the period. A Notre Dame 4 on 2 resulted in Theisen nearly tying the game, but he could get past Hunter Shepard and the game remained 2-1 going into the second intermission. Coming into Saturday the Irish were 1-6 when trailing after two.
The Irish came into the game out-scoring their opponents 38-30 in the third period this season. With a one goal lead, the Bulldogs kept their skaters fresh with short shifts for the first half of the third period as they out-shot the Irish for most of the period. With plenty of traffic in front of the net, Notre Dame nearly tied it with around six minutes left, but the Minnesota-Duluth defense wouldn’t allow the Irish to get an open look at the net.
With 3:54 left in regulation, a Kuhlman breakaway almost extended the lead but Morris made another big save to keep the contest within one. The pro-Duluth crowd was making their presence felt with about 1:30 left as Jackson pulled Morris extra attacker. The Bulldogs were called for icing, which allowed the Irish to get a face off in their offensive zone with an extra attacker. The Irish won the face off but couldn’t get anything going. Icing was called on the Bulldogs with 2.1 seconds left, which wasn’t enough for Notre Dame to win the draw, and the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs are your 2018 NCAA champions. The first hockey national championship will have to wait another year. These teams will meet again this fall in non-conference play at Compton Family Ice Arena.
UMD - Karson Kuhlman from Jade Miller at 09:06 in the 1st
UMD - Jared Thomas from Karson Kuhlman at 18:39 in the 1st
ND - Andrew Oglevie from Cam Morrison and Jake Evans at 07:40 in the 2nd
ND - Mike O’Leary, 2 for hooking at 19:42 in the 1st
ND - Jordan Gross, 2 for tripping at 02:19 in the 2nd
UMD - Louie Roehl, 2 for interference at 04:35 in the 2nd
UMD - Scott Perunovich, 2 for interference at 07:08 in the 2nd
ND - Colin Theisen, 2 for kneeing at 10:02 in the 2nd
ND - Cale Morris saved 33 of 35 shots
UMD - Hunter Shepard saved 19 of 20 shots
We’ll see you this fall. It was an amazing season to be an Notre Dame hockey fan, thank you for following along on the journey.