NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The University of Notre Dame hockey team needed just 53 seconds of overtime to secure its berth in the Big Ten Tournament Championship game, with a power-play goal by freshman Michael Graham giving the Irish a 2-1 win over Minnesota on Saturday night at a sold out Compton Family Ice Arena (4,882).
“That’s a good hockey team,” head coach Jeff Jackson said. “They’ve been one of the hottest teams in the country over the last month. I knew we’d have to have patience to stay in this game It’ll be that way from here on out. Patience just means good puck decisions and not trying to make high risk plays. That’s challenging for a young team but we have lots of veterans who have been through this before and can hopefully pave the way.”
The Irish (21-13-3, 13-11-2-2 B1G) and Gophers (18-16-4, 10-11-3-0 B1G) each scored early in the first period, but went without another goal through the rest of regulation.
Notre Dame opened the scoring just two minutes into the game when a deflection off Cam Morrison flitted past Minnesota goaltender Mat Robson. The Gophers answered at 5:44 on their first shot of the night when Sampo Ranta’s shot evaded Irish netminder Cale Morris.
The Irish peppered Robson with 16 shots in the first frame, but failed to net the go-ahead goal.
Morris made 12 saves in the second stanza, and the Irish killed off their lone penalty of the contest, to preserve the 1-1 tie entering the final period.
The two sides continued to trade chances in the third frame, combining for 20 shots on goal, but remained even after 60 minutes.
Graham’s overtime power-play marker finally broke the deadlock just 53 seconds into the extra period.
The Irish were 1-for-3 on the power play, the conversion coming when it counted with Graham’s game winner in overtime. Minnesota was 0-for-1 on the man advantage.
Morris made 25 saves, while Robson stopped 35 shots.
Notre Dame Goal Descriptions
1-0 ND | The Irish converted at the two-minute mark of the first period when Mike O’Leary and Cam Morrison broke loose on a two-on-one — beating three Gophers through the neutral zone — and O’Leary’s centering pass deflected off Morrison and caromed into the net for the junior’s ninth goal of the season. Michael Graham also assisted on the play.
2-1 ND | Graham buried the game-winner just 53 seconds into overtime — and 22 seconds into a power play — picking up a quick Andrew Peeke pass behind the net and curling around the net to flip his shot over Robson’s blocker shoulder. It was Graham’s team-leading 12th goal of the season, but the first game winner of his career. O’Leary also assisted on the play.
The opponent and location for next weekend’s Big Ten title game are still to be determined based on the result of Penn State and Ohio State’s semifinal matchup on Sunday. If the Nittany Lions win, the Irish will host them next Saturday (March 23). If the Buckeyes advance, Notre Dame will take on Ohio State for the crown next Sunday (March 24).
- With his first period goal, Cam Morrison notched his 11th career playoff point (15 GP, 6-5-11).
- With the overtime winner, Michael Graham notched his first career playoff goal and also added his first career playoff assist in Cam Morrison’s goal.
- It marked Graham’s first career game-winning goal and his fifth multi-point game of the season (all in the second semester).
- After last weekend’s back-to-back shutouts, Cale Morris’ shutout streak was snapped at 139:49 when the Gophers scored in the first period.
- Notre Dame improved to 5-0-0 on Big Ten Tournament playoff games.
- The Irish are now 42-29-0 in the playoffs under head coach Jeff Jackson, including a 31-20-0 mark in conference tournament play.
— ND —