Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2017 Issue

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 53 of 63

54 MAY 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI T hrough much of the 2016-17 college hockey season, the youth-laden Notre Dame team spent the first several months skating on thin ice while attempting to merit a bid to the 16-team NCAA Tournament. Lo and behold, head coach Jeff Jackson's Fighting Irish found their stride in February, when they began a 7-1-2 run to close the regular season and start the Hockey East playoffs. Not only did they earn a final No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but then they had a miniature version of their own "Miracle On Ice" that advanced them to the Frozen Four for the third time in history (all un- der Jackson), and the first since 2011 — the last time they had notched a postseason victory. Notre Dame earned a second-place tie in the 12-team Hockey East before falling to longtime nemesis UMass Lowell, 5-1, in the Hockey East semi- finals March 17. The top five enter- ing the NCAA Tournament featured Denver, Harvard, Minnesota Duluth, Minnesota and UMass Lowell. The Fighting Irish — who were No. 12 at the end of the regular season — then stunned No. 1 seed Minne- sota and No. 2 seed UMass Lowell by identical 3-2 scores March 25-26, the latter in overtime at the Northeast Region in Manchester, N.H. All three of the No. 1 seeds in the other regions — Denver, Harvard and Minnesota Duluth — advanced to the Frozen Four with at least .763 winning percentages. Notre Dame's 23-11-5 ledger (.654) was not as glit- tering, but the program earned the right to crash the party. CLOCK STRIKES MIDNIGHT FOR CINDERELLA En route to its eighth national title, Denver (33-7-4) dominated during its 6-1 victory over Notre Dame (23-12- 5) in the semifinal round held April 6 in Chicago. It was the hockey version of Notre Dame-Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game in January 2013 — a wonderful run ended by a mis- erable night. Denver outshot Notre Dame 13-3 in the first period — and 42-17 in the game — and held a 2-0 lead after the first 20 minutes. The Irish came out with much more physicality and aggression to start the second pe- riod and outskated Denver the first 14 minutes before the floodgates opened with three goals by the Pio- neers in the final 5:53 to up the lead to 5-0. "They're the No. 1-ranked team in the country for a reason," Jackson said afterwards. "You give them their due. They're a great team. I'm not going to be pleased until we win one of these things. … I give these kids a lot of credit because I don't think anybody expected them to be here." Getting there was achieved with the rallies against Minnesota and UMass Lowell. On March 25, the Golden Gophers scored in the opening minutes in each of the first two periods for a 2-0 lead. The game changed at 14:39 of the second period when sopho- more Andrew Oglevie tallied on a wrist shot off the cross bar. Just 56 seconds later, junior Anders Bjork Ice Breakers Notre Dame's Cinderella run to the Frozen Four ends versus national champ Denver Hockey East All-Star Anders Bjork led the Irish in scoring and made the U.S. National Team roster for the 2017 IHF Men's World Championship. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND

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