Manchester, NH. — Game two for the Northeast Regional featured the only game of conference tournament winners going head to head in the first round. A defensive struggle was envisioned with super goalies Cale Morris of Notre Dame going against Clarkson’s Jake Kielly. This one would more likely than not be decided by a goal.
The first period had the Fighting Irish taking it to Clarkson. They were really carrying the play. The best scoring chance early came when Colin Theisen had a steal and was in alone on Jake Kielly. Kielly easily made the stop. Then Alex Steeves was in alone on Kielly too, again Kielly made the stop.
At 16:56 Marly Quince threw the puck on the Notre Dame net from along the boards at the Irish goal line. Somehow the puck bounced into the net off of the stick of Cale Morris giving the Golden Knights the 1-0 lead. The pace of play picked up a bit after that as ND’s Graham Slaggert had a chance but couldn’t solve Kielly. After a scrum in front of Morris, Notre Dame’s Tory Dello was called for Cross-Checking at 19:33. The first ended with the Irish leading in the shots 11-6, winning the face-off battle 13-5 but trailing by a goal.
The second had The Irish on the attack right out of the gate. Cal Burke had a chance on a mini breakaway but Kielly was there. Slaggert crashed the net for a quick rebound that Kielly also turned away. At 4:58 Notre Dame got on the board off of a two on one opportunity. Burke threaded a pass past a Clarkson defender and across the crease that Theisen roofed over Kielly tying it at 1-1. Clarkson wasn’t fazed long because at 6:29 Haralds Egle blasted a slap shot five-hole on Morris at the right dot for the 2-1 lead. At 7:22 Steeves was called for Interference. Clarkson was all over Notre Dame but 2 quick saves by Morris kept it close. A Clarkson penalty at 16:57 for Tripping but the power play didn’t yield any result. The second ended with Notre Dame outshooting Clarkson 11-7 and dominating the face-offs 26-10.
The third started in the worst possible way for Clarkson when Nico Sturm was called for Hitting From Behind just nineteen seconds into the period. This resulted in a five-minute power play for Notre Dame and a game misconduct for Sturm. Kielly made a nice blocker save on an Irish shot from the point. ND coach Jeff Jackson used his timeout to rest his players knowing this was a huge opportunity to tie the game. Clarkson killed off the five-minute major with solid defending. The Golden Knights were buzzing a bit afterward. An Anthony Callin Face-Off Violation call at 6:20 negated that buzz, but Kielly and the 9th ranked penalty kill held fast. A Tripping call on Notre Dame’s Jack Jenkins put the Golden Knight a man up, but Notre Dame’s Burke had the best chance on a shorthanded bid. Jackson gambled by pulling Morris with roughly three minutes left, coming out of a Notre Dame timeout. It paid off as Burke carried into the Clarkson zone, drawing a few defenders to him, which allowed Bobby Nardella to be all alone in front as Burke fed him for the tying goal at 17:40. With overtime looming, and a face-off in the Notre Dame zone Jake Pivonka was whistled for a Face-Off Violation at 19:05. The pace of that period slowed as it went along. The Irish held just a slight edge in shots 9-5 and maintained their sizeable edge in the face-off department 35-21.
The overtime would open with Clarkson a man up with a fresh sheet of ice. Clarkson generated pressure but not quality chances as the extra frame opened. After the power play ended they kept up the momentum. The ebb and flows of the game had Notre Dame controlling as the period approached the midway point. A Burke scoring chance that was impeded by a Hooking call led to Burke being awarded a penalty shot at 11:33 of the overtime. He shot it high. Clarkson was recharged after this and took it to the Irish. Kielly made a save on Notre Dame, and swatted the rebound away to the side of his net, right onto the stick of Cam Morrison who promptly roofed the puck up over Kielly and into Notre Dame folklore.
Clarkson had a great season, in which they won the ECAC tournament title. For the three seniors on the Golden Knights, defenseman Aaron Thow, and forwards Juho Jokiharju and Marly Quince, they were a part of that title and two consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament. After the game Coach Casey Jones was clearly disappointed in the final outcome. “I thought it was a battle out there” said Jones. “I thought that in the game our guys faced some enormous obstacles and adversity. We persevered through them. We took a while getting into the game, they came at us with a little something that we weren’t expecting to start the game and once we settled in I was very happy with our game, we’re in a good place and like I said we faced a ton of adversity tonight and I was really proud of our guys how we handled it and it’s a tough pill to swallow losing that game. At no point did I think our season would be over today.
The Fighting Irish have a date with their old Hockey East conference foe Massachusetts on Saturday at 6:30 pm with a trip to the Frozen Four in Buffalo on the line. Head coach Jeff Jackson had a relaxed demeanor after the game. He spoke highly of UMass at his post-game press conference.
“Well obviously they’ve come a long way,” Jackson said. “They’ve done a great job recruiting bringing in some premier guys which elevated their program in a major way. I mean, they are certainly one of the best teams in the country this year and I think that has a lot to do with obviously the coaching staff but I think they have done a tremendous job bringing in high-end talent and bringing a good culture to the university” he said when asked about the progress the Minutemen have made since Notre Dame left Hockey East.
“It’s always had that potential, I remember interviewing there a long time ago when they first started the program and always thought that they had great potential and obviously Greg has done a tremendous job him and his staff because the recruiting has been phenomenal too.”
About his decision to pull the goalie with so much time left in the third Jackson cracked “I’ve gotten more brazen in my old age, you have an offensive zone faceoff and it doesn’t matter when you go that long without having challenges to score a goal, you have an opportunity to put your best players on the ice with an extra attacker and some traffic. I hesitated about doing it after calling the timeout and waiting for another 30 or 40 seconds, but why wait, for me it’s anytime under three minutes and closer to two minutes but that was close enough with a face-off in the offensive zone.”