April 29, 2017
No one had to remind the University of Notre Dame lacrosse program how tough it had been for the Irish to defeat Duke in April and May.
Kevin Corrigan’s crew had posted six regular-season victories over the Blue Devils from 2010 through 2016. But John Danowski’s Duke teams had eliminated the Irish from the NCAA Championship in four of five seasons from 2010-14 (twice in the title game, twice in the quarterfinals)-and the Blue Devils also had defeated Notre Dame in the ACC Championship semifinals each of the last two seasons. Including tonight, those seven games were decided by a combined 13 goals.
Plus, this marked a rematch-on the same field at Duke’s Koskinen Stadium-from nearly three weeks ago when the Blue Devils held off Notre Dame 11-8.
But all that history went down the drain Friday night in yet another ACC Championship semifinal as the fourth-rated Irish and goaltender Shane Doss pitched a shutout for an amazing 35 minutes and then tallied three critical late-game goals by Drew Schantz, Ryder Garnsey and Mikey Wynne to withstand sixth-ranked Duke’s late surge.
The two teams combined for more goals in the final period (seven) than they did in the first three periods combined.
The end result–after Duke’s Jack Bruckner clanged a shot off the post with eight seconds to go-became a 7-6 Irish victory that sends Notre Dame into the ACC title game at noon Sunday (on ESPNU) against a North Carolina team that finished with a 16-15 win over top-rated Syracuse after leading twice by nine goals.
The Irish came into the contest knowing defense was the key-considering the Blue Devils boasted the top two active career goal-scorers in the league in junior Jason Guterding and senior Jack Bruckner.
Bruckner finished with a hat trick (within a span of 4:11 in the final period) and Guterding had a third-period goal and two assists. But Notre Dame, especially early, did a superb job of taking Duke out of its offense.
After Wynne, the reigning ACC offensive player of the week, scored in the first four minutes, Notre Dame’s defense took over. Duke’s second shot didn’t come until the 3:40 mark of the first period. The Blue Devils ended the initial quarter with one shot on goal, no shots by Bruckner and only one by Guterding (and that came with 1.6 seconds to go). Denver had been the only other team to shut out the Blue Devils in the first period this season. And the Irish held an opponent off the board in the first period for the first time since doing that in two of the first three games of 2017 against Georgetown and Maryland.
On a muggy, 77-degree evening, freshman Bryan Costabile’s second goal with :51.8 left in the opening half made it 3-0 for the Irish in their de-facto road game. This was a battle between the top two goaltenders in the ACC-and it looked that way most of the first two periods. Irish All-ACC senior defender Garrett Epple and his mates played big roles in limiting Duke to 13 first-half shots, only six of them on goal.
Offered Corrigan to his team at the half, “We did a great job in being disciplined and poised on the defensive end.”
Costabile finished off his hat trick with a goal less than a minute into the second half for a 4-0 Irish lead. From there, Duke rebounded with four scores in a row-the first and fourth of those coming after Notre Dame penalties left the Irish a man down.
The Irish still led 4-2 after three periods until Bruckner scored twice in 48 seconds to tie the game at four apiece. It looked like the home team had seized the momentum, but give the Irish credit because they never lost the lead-even on a night when they had 18 turnovers.
Schantz’s goal from Garnsey came at 7:25 of the final period. After Duke tied it, Garnsey and Wynne scored goals 24 seconds apart in the final three minutes (both on assists from Brendan Collins).
Duke called timeout at :57.9 and got a goal from Kevin Quigley at :23.1 to make it 7-6. The Blue Devils controlled the faceoff, called another timeout at :17.3-only to see Bruckner’s final effort bounce the back the other direction.
Notre Dame’s one-goal victory meant 2017 became the fourth year in ACC history that both semifinal games were decided by a single goal. And that was typical of an ACC campaign in which six of the 10 league games were one-goal outcomes.
For Costabile, it was a landmark night. His Maryland high school team had never been good enough to give him an opportunity to play in a postseason tournament game, so Friday night’s action marked his debut in that category. So it’s safe to say he’ll remember his three-goal performance. “Yeah, this was a big deal,” he said after the game.
Offered Corrigan after it was over to ESPN, “They got the shot they wanted at the end, but we were fortunate. We knew we had to be good (on defense). It’s great to have film and go to school from that previous game (Duke’s 11-8 win on April 8). This is what they want to do and this is how we can make it hard for them.”
Corrigan offered his thoughts on the Irish defense: “We played with great discipline tonight and you have to against them. They are so slick and they know what they want and they are so determined to get it. If you don’t play as smart and as disciplined as they do, you have no chance with them. The first game we were not disciplined enough and this time we made some great decisions tonight and put ourselves in positions where we didn’t have to make bad decisions. We moved well in small spaces so we were never really out of position. I’m really, really proud of the way the defense played.
“We were much better on the ball today. We did a better job of guarding one on one and we had to make better slide decisions and keep our defense inside of them.
“We scored three in the fourth quarter and that was enough. But we’ve got to eliminate the turnovers. We’ve got to be better than that.”
A week ago, the Irish (who Friday night regained the top NCAA RPI figure with their win combined with Syracuse’s loss) defeated North Carolina 14-13 in a game that sent the Tar Heels to 6-7 and potentially out of NCAA consideration. The Heels’ win Friday night put them back at .500, but Carolina needs to defeat Notre Dame Sunday in the title game to even have a chance to be selected for the NCAA bracket.
“We see them in the same situation (as last week in South Bend). This is what the ACC is,” said Corrigan.
Senior associate athletics director John Heisler has been covering the Notre Dame athletics scene since 1978. Watch for his weekly Sunday Brunch offerings on UND.com.