March 7, 2015
Cal Petersen collapsed to the ice, the combination of defeat and exhaustion crashing all down upon him at once.
Robbie Russo was stunned into silence.
For Sam Herr, playing in the longest hockey game in NCAA Division I history ranged from frustrating to comical to surreal.
By the time Friday night’s Hockey East Tournament hockey game at the Compton Family Ice Arena between the University of Notre Dame and Massachusetts ended on Saturday morning, players from both teams fought through pain and fatigue, displaying the heart of a warrior as they willed themselves to battle.
When Shane Walsh fired in a goal to end the five-overtime marathon at 4-3, the Fighting Irish and UMass played an NCAA record 151 minutes and 42 seconds. The game started at 7:35 p.m. on Friday and ended at 1:30 a.m. on Saturday.
“You just don’t anticipate playing two games on a Friday night,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said.
Petersen, the Notre Dame freshman goaltender, established an NCAA record with a staggering 87 saves.
Most of Petersen’s saves were breath-taking as Notre Dame and Massachusetts battling in what seemed like a 15-round fight . . . followed by another 15-round fight.
Herr and Vince Hinostroza fired in goals for a 2-0 Irish lead, and Steve Fogarty added another that pushed the Irish lead to 3-1 in the second period.
UMass rallied to tie the score at 3-3, setting the stage for a dramatic and intense battle.
In college hockey tournament action, teams play 20-minute overtime periods. There is no thought of a shootout.
Jackson wouldn’t have it any other way.
“That’s the way hockey is,” Jackson said. “It’s just like baseball. You play 100 innings if it’s a tie game.”
Russo, an Irish captain, said players kept up the fight despite the pain and fatigue.
“For some guys, there was pain,” Russo said. “Physically, you get tired, mentally, it feels like everything is going.
“Guys are battling through a lot of things out there,” Russo said. “They weren’t calling very many penalties, so you had to battle through that, too, and the fatigue sets in. It definitely speaks of the character of this team and what guys are willing to do.
“It felt like it was never going to end. We’d keep going back to the locker room, keep trying to say things and keep trying to stay positive . . . pucks to the net. It was a tough way to lose.”
Herr credited the Irish medical staff with making sure the Irish could skate through the adversity.
“Dave Gilbert and Kevin Ricks, our equipment manager and our trainer, they were constantly communicating with the guys,” Herr said. “Dave was constantly seeing if we needed equipment changes. Ricks is doing everything he can to make sure we’re staying hydrated, getting food in us, giving us tips on what to do. That was a big thing, keep staying hydrated. You’re losing a lot of fluids, basically playing three hockey games.”
Herr loved the fight in the Irish.
“Continuing to fight is something our team has learned throughout the year,” Herr said. “The character in the locker room has grown tremendously. It showed tonight. When things weren’t going our way during the first three periods, let alone overtime, we were playing patient. We were actually playing pretty well in overtime.
“We kept battling. It took a funny bounce to a guy open on a three-on-two rush to get the puck in the net. That’s how we knew the game was going to end, something like that. To see the guys battle their hearts out, you couldn’t ask for anything more than that.”
Irish players tried to stay focused on the ice as the fatigue tried to sweep over them.
“The third, fourth, fifth overtime . . . you’re starting to get tired,” Herr said. “The shifts that were effective were the shifts where guys stayed in it mentally. They kept it simple. They were getting the pucks in deep. They weren’t taking chances you didn’t need to take. That allowed for cycling shifts and a little momentum. Overcoming it mentally was the hardest part. So many things are going through your head, whether you want to cheat on offense or you’re too tired to go here, but you have to do it. You have to overcome that and keep battling mentally.”
According to Herr, the string of defeat will dissipate and pride at being part of an NCAA record for ironmen will set in.
“It’s going to be a special moment for everybody on the team,” Herr said. “Guys aren’t going to forget it. There’s a huge pride in the way we played tonight. We weren’t getting bounces, but we kept pushing, we kept going.”
Herr said the Irish weren’t able to back down in the overtime battle, despite the pain and fatigue hitting hard.
“It’s hockey,” Herr said. “You definitely keep playing.”
— by Curt Rallo, special correspondent