March 27, 2004
Grand Rapids, Mich. - The Notre Dame hockey team made its first appearance in the NCAA hockey tournament on Saturday afternoon, facing the two-time defending national champion Minnesota Golden Gophers. Before the day was over, the Irish learned just why Minnesota is going for its third consecutive title.
The Irish jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead on goals by Cory McLean and Aaron Gill only to see the Gophers score five unanswered goals on the way to a 5-2 win over Notre Dame to advance to the Midwest Regional final on Sunday versus Minnesota-Duluth. The Bulldogs downed Michigan State, 5-0, in their semifinal game at Van Andel Arena.
Sophomore All-American Thomas Vanek who scored two goals and assisted on a third to led Minnesota's comeback. Matt Koalska, Danny Irmen (ppg) and Troy Riddle also scored for Minnesota.
The day started great for the Irish as McLean got them on the scoreboard just 54 seconds into the game. The junior right wing teamed with Aaron Gill on a two-on-one and beat Minnesota goaltender Kellen Briggs low to the stick side for his 10th goal of the year.
Notre Dame took advantage of a Minnesota penalty to Matt Koalska late in the first period and made it 2-0 at 19:18 of the third on the power play. Rob Globke set up Gill's team-high ninth power-play goal of the year when he carried the puck deep down the right side. He fired a shot that Briggs could not control. The rebound came in front to Walsh who got a shot off. Gill was there to redirect the shot behind Briggs for his career-high 17th goal of the year.
"Rob did a great job of throwing the puck at the net," said Gill.
"Walshie (Mike Walsh) and I took a shot at it and it went in. It capped a great first period for us."
Irish head coach Dave Poulin was pleased with his team's 2-0 lead, but knew that his team had 40 minutes left.
"We got off to a great start, getting the 2-0 lead. They showed us why they've won the last two years. There was no flinching on their part after the first period. They acted like they had been there and done that," said Poulin.
The Gophers wasted little time getting their offense cranked up in the second period as Koalska avenged his penalty with a great move to beat Morgan Cey in the Irish goal just 26 seconds into the second period.
The senior center barged and charged down the right wing and swooped in on Cey cutting across the front of the net before sliding the puck behind the junior goaltender on the backhand for his 13th goal of the year.
"Koalska's goal was a best-player making the best-player goal," said Poulin.
Minnesota would tie the game at 9:13 with a power-play goal of their own on a shot that pinballed off three players in front before finding its way past Cey.
Cey stopped a Chris Harrington wrist shot from the top of the right-wing circle. The rebound went of an Irish defenseman and then Gopher right wing Danny Irmen past Cey for Irmen's 14th goal of the season.
The Irish almost took the lead with less than five minutes left in the period with the teams playing four aside.
Sophomore center Matt Amado broke in all-alone on Briggs and fired a shot off his pads. Michael Bartlett fired the rebound over the net. From there Minnesota came down the ice and scored what proved to be the winning goal.
The Gophers flipped the puck towards the Irish goal where it was knocked down in front. Two Irish defenders collided and before Cey could get to the bouncing biscuit, Vanek was Johnny-on-the-spot to poke it by the Irish goaltender at 16:24.
"Vanek's first goal was the turning point," said Poulin.
"First we miss on the breakaway chance and they convert on the next one in front. Players like Vanek are always where the puck is and take advantages of those situations."
The Gophers outshot the Irish 21-7 in the second period and kept Cey busy in the first two periods with 34 of their 45 shots.
"They rolled four lines all night and stepped it up in the second period when they really turned it on," said Cey.
"I've faced a lot of shots before. It's not like they overwhelmed me. It was just steady. Late in the period I felt a little fatigue, but that was more from the heat and humidity in the building."
Vanek's second goal of the night, his 26th of the season, was a thing of beauty and showed why the Buffalo Sabres made the Minnesota sophomore their first-round pick last season.
He raced down the right side and tried to stuff a shot past Cey on the short side. The rebound came right to him and he continued behind the net for a wrap-around-goal as Cey could not get to the far post in time to stop the goal at 11:52 of the third period.
"Vanek's second goal was a great goal," said Poulin.
"That's why he's a first team All-American. He's always in the right place at the right time and scores the big goals when his team needs them."
Troy Riddle closed out the scoring for Minnesota with an empty-net goal at 19:24 to close out the season for Notre Dame.
On the night, Cey equaled a season-high with 40 saves. Briggs made 20 saves in the Minnesota goal.
The Irish finish with a 20-15-4 overall record while Minnesota will continue on with a 27-13-3 record.
"Overall, this was a huge step for our program," said Poulin.
"I thanked our seniors after the game. I told the seniors that I appreciated the fact that they had taken the underclassmen to a new level. Now it's up to the underclassmen to go on from here."
** Notre Dame was making its first-ever appearance in the NCAA tournament. Minnesota was making its 28th. Minnesota has won 16 consecutive postseason games over the last three seasons.
** Gill's goal and assist gives him five goals and three assists in five postseason games this season to lead the team. For his career, In 13 postseason games, Gill had eight goals and three assists for 11 points. His 17 goals and 21 assists for 38 points are career highs for the senior center. Gill finishes his Irish career tied with former teammate Connor Dunlop for 34th on the all-time scoring list with 49 goals and 62 assists for 111 career points.
** Rob Globke finished as Notre Dame's top scorer this season with 19 goals and 21 assists for 40 points. The 21 assists and 40 points are all career highs for the senior right wing. He finishes his career tied for 28th in scoring with 68 goals and 56 assists for 124 career points.
GAME SUMMARY 1 2 3 F Notre Dame (20-15-4) 2 0 0 2 Minnesota (27-13-3) 0 3 2 5
Second Period: UM: Matt Koalska 13 (Thomas Vanek, Chris Harrington), 00:26; UM: Danny Irmen 14 (Harrington, Gino Guyer), PPG, 9:18; UM: Vanek 25 (unassisted), 16:24. Penalties: ND: 2 for 4 minutes; UM: 1 for 2 minutes.
Third Period: UM: Vanek 26 (Koalska, Keith Ballard), 11:52; UM: Troy Riddle 24 (unassisted), ENG, 19:24. Penalties: ND: 2 for 4 minutes; UM: 2 for 4 minutes.
Shots On Goal: Notre Dame 8 - 7 - 7 - 22 Minnesota 13 - 21 - 11 - 49
Goaltender Saves: ND - Morgan Cey (59:01) 13 - 18 - 9 - 40 UM - Kellen Briggs (60:00) 6 - 7 - 7 - 20
Power Plays: ND: 1 for 5 UM: 1 for 5