MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Cam Morrison netted a power-play goal and the Irish outshot the Gophers, 31-20, but Notre Dame fell to Minnesota 2-1 in game two of the Big Ten quarterfinals.
The Irish and Gophers will meet in a series-deciding game three at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 8 at 3M Arena at Mariucci. The winner of Sunday’s game three will take on top-seeded Penn State in the Big Ten semifinals next weekend.
“We had chances to score, we hit the post three or four times,” said Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson. “But Minnesota played with more urgency tonight … we just have to come back at it again tomorrow. Our special teams kept us in the game, penalty kill did a good job and power play scored a big goal. We just have to find a way to get that second goal.”
Michael Graham and Alex Steeves picked up assists on Morrison’s power-play marker. The Irish finished 1-for-2 on the man advantage and 3-for-3 on the penalty kill.
Cale Morris finished with 18 saves while Jack LaFontaine stopped 30 of 31 shots for the Gophers.
How It Happened
Minnesota opened the scoring just 1:24 into the first period when Ryan Zuhlsdorf finished a Sammy Walker drop pass from the high slot for a 1-0 lead.
The Irish got stronger as the first period wore on, eventually earning a 13-3 advantage in shots on goal after 20 minutes, but the Gophers held the 1-0 lead into the first intermission. The best Irish chance came when Colin Theisen rang a shot from the slot off the crossbar with just over a minute remaining in the stanza.
One of Notre Dame’s best looks in the second came off an offensive zone faceoff win that set Alex Steeves up but his wrister sailed past LaFontaine and hit the post just over eight minutes into the period.
Action picked up as the second wore on, including a Morris save midway through on Bryce Brodzinski followed by a glove save by Morris on Walker’s partial breakaway at 13:50. Tory Dello, setup by Cal Burke with a pass from below the goal line, saw his shot from the slot go just wide of the net on Notre Dame’s next chance. The the Gophers remained in front, 1-0, after 40 minutes.
The Gophers extended their lead to 2-0 just 3:27 into the third when they took advantage of an Irish turnover that saw Cullen Munson score his second goal of the season.
Morrison then converted a cross-crease pass from Graham on the power play to get the Irish back within one with 9:46 left in the third. The play began when Alex Steeves corralled the puck and sent it back behind the net for Graham to earn the second assist.
Theisen nearly tied it up with 8:03 left in the third when he hammered a drop pass from Cal Burke, but the puck once again hit the post.
Nate Clurman forced LaFontaine into a nice blocker save with 3:20 left in regulation and then Morrison hammered an off pad shot that Graham just missed putting back as the Irish pushed for the tying goal.
Morris was pulled with 1:30 left in regulation, but the Gophers held on for the 2-1 win to force game three.
- The deciding game three three will take place at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 8.
- It will be televised on FS2 and streamed on the Fox Sports App via authentication (must be a FS2 subscriber to watch).
- The winner of Sunday’s game three will take on top-seeded Penn State in the Big Ten semifinals next weekend.
- Notre Dame’s penalty kill improved to 26-for-27 over the past 10 games (additional series against Penn State, Minnesota, Michigan and Michigan State).
- The Fighting Irish are trying to become the first road team to win a Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal series in the current format/last three seasons (road teams are now 0-for-8 entering Sunday evening).
- Cam Morrison scored his ninth career playoff goal and his 14th career playoff point.
- When Minnesota scored the game’s opening goal, it marked the first time Notre Dame trailed in a Big Ten Tournament game (in their eighth tournament game played).
- Notre Dame is now 7-1-0 in Big Ten tournament play, with Cale Morris earning all seven of those wins.
- With an assist, Michael Graham reached the 20-point plateau for the second consecutive season to start his Irish career (4-16-20 as a sophomore in 28 games played).
- After holding the Gophers to three shots on goal in the first period, Minnesota’s first shot on goal of the second came 8:49 into the period.