March 12, 2017
By John Heisler
A one-goal men’s lacrosse game between Notre Dame and Denver?
No surprise there-that’s been the case now in six of the last seven meetings in this series (five of the previous six went overtime).
The number-one ranking looking like some sort of hot potato?
Apparently that shouldn’t come as any surprise either-considering Notre Dame likely becomes the fourth team in this young season to drop out of the top spot after being ranked atop the polls (it already happened to North Carolina, Denver and Maryland in the Inside Lacrosse standings).
That’s how it played out Sunday at sold-out Peter Barton Stadium on the University of Denver campus on a partly sunny, very windy, 60-degree day that saw neither team lead by more than a goal in the second half.
The Pioneers’ lone second-half advantage came as time ran out when Connor Cannizzaro scored to give fourth-ranked Denver (5-1) an 11-10 win over the top-rated Irish (3-1).
“In games like this we know it comes down to execution, right?” Irish coach Kevin Corrigan told his team moments before the first face-off.
“Everybody comes in well-prepared, and it takes you a little while to get used to how they’re playing. We’ve got to be ready to execute over and over and over again so you can make those plays. You’ve got to be coldly relentless about it while playing with the passion you have to have in big games like this.”
Coming off a loss last weekend to North Carolina, Denver was capping an opening six-game home stand. The Pioneers seized some early momentum in rushing to 3-1 and 6-4 leads before the Irish both times fought back to tie the game.
The home team took advantage of Irish penalties to score in man-up situations on two of its first three goals, the first of those by Cannizzaro just 82 seconds into the match. The Pioneers had three goals on the board in the first 4:46, but Notre Dane’s defense settled in nicely after that.
Brendan Collins fought through a double team to score, and Ryder Garnsey did the same less than two minutes later for a tie at three. A pair of Denver tallies in the final 2:25 made it 5-3 for the Pioneers after one period.
That made it a 6-6 tie at intermission and it couldn’t have been much more dramatic from there.
Said Corrigan at the break, “Once we settled down offensively and had some patience we got some great opportunities. When we’re patient we’re going to get what we want. We need to grind out more possessions to see what’s there.
“It was kind of an all-over-the-place first half for us, but what’s the score? So let’s go, let’s go play our game.”
Four times in the second half Notre Dame managed to post one-goal leads-and four times Denver came back to tie. Mikey Wynne, Garnsey, Schantz and finally Sergio Perkovic scored for the Irish. At that point Denver fans were having horrid flashbacks of Perkovic’s five goals in about five minutes late in the 2015 NCAA semifinals in Philadelphia. Perkovic’s tally came at the 9:16 mark of the fourth period and then no one scored again for about six and a half minutes.
It took untimely double penalties against Notre Dame at the 3:02 juncture of the final period to give Denver a six-on-four opportunity. Tyler Pace needed all of 11 seconds to convert for the Pioneers and tie the game at 10.
Denver held the ball most of the rest of the way, including timeout calls at 1:24 and 1:03. The officials never put on the shot clock until there were less than 30 seconds remaining, effectively giving the Pioneers the final shot. Cannizzaro dropped the ball with about five seconds remaining but somehow came around the right side of the goal to flip it past Shane Doss. Since there was no ensuing face-off it meant the officials determined the ball came out of Cannizzaro’s stick just before the official clock hit all zeroes.
Doss played a solid game in goal with 13 saves, including one while he was on his back. He held the Pioneers to two combined goals over the second and third periods.
Notre Dame had only eight turnovers (only three in the second half)-and the Irish had their chances to win the game despite winning only five of 24 face-offs.
Wynne had multiple chances late at the mouth of the goal, freshman Bryan Costabile (after one earlier goal) hit the pipe-and a turnover ruined another final-minutes offensive option in a man-up situation.
Garnsey had a pair of goals with four assists. Wynne had two goals and two assists, and Schantz had a pair of goals. Denver goalie Alex Ready made nine saves, several of the spectacular variety with Irish players in his face.
Both teams paid dearly for miscues-with Denver finishing with four man-up goals to three in that category for Notre Dame.
Offered Corrigan after the event: “It was a good game. They made plays throughout the game and it’s disappointing to us some of the plays they were able to make because we don’t feel like they can make those without us contributing. So the thing for us to work on is not contributing to those plays.
“They are a very good team and they’re always going to make plays.
“We had the opportunity to make a bunch of plays and didn’t.
“At the end of the day the team that makes the most plays wins.
“It wasn’t us today.”
These two programs qualify among the best in collegiate lacrosse. This marked the
fourth straight meeting that both teams have been ranked among the top four. The Pioneers also handed the Irish their first loss a year ago-also a week after Notre Dame held Maryland to four goals.
The topsy-turvy movement at the top of the polls suggests there are a number of good-maybe very good-teams in the country but probably not one that has proven itself elite.
Today’s result, if nothing else, proved the difference between the Pioneers and Irish-at least over 60 minutes-amounted to one play and less than a second.
For Denver of late against Notre Dame, that’s been par for the course.
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.