May 7, 2017
By John Heisler
The good news is the University of Notre Dame men's lacrosse team nearly posted a sixth victory in 2017 over a ranked opponent.
The bad news is, after regaining the lead midway through the final period, the fourth-ranked Irish (now 8-5) ended up losing 10-9 in overtime Saturday to 17th-rated Army West Point (now 12-4) on a cloudy, sometimes rainy, 60-degree day at Michie Stadium in a picturesque setting on the banks of Hudson River.
The good news is that the Irish did that without the services of 22-goal scorer and two-time All-America midfielder Sergio Perkovic, overall leading 2017 scorer Ryder Garnsey (39 points) and faceoff specialist P.J. Finley, none of whom saw action against the Black Knights.
The bad news, presumably for any upcoming Irish opponents, is that all three should be back when NCAA Championship action begins next weekend.
The good news is that, in the absence of Perkovic and Garnsey, sophomore Brendan Gleason responded with a career-high four goals and junior Mikey Wynne had a hat trick in the first period (his fifth game in 2017 with at least three goals) on his way to becoming the eighth Irish player to post 100 goals.
The bad news is that, after that opening period, Wynne had only one shot the rest of the way--while Gleason's two second-half goals marked the only two by the Irish in the final 26 minutes.
The good news is that senior goaltender Shane Doss and the Irish defense allowed only a single goal in each of the first, third and fourth periods--with Doss on his way to a dozen saves, the third straight time (and seventh time in 2017) he's made double-digit saves.
The bad news is Notre Dame allowed Army six goals in the second period (including three goals in a 2:37 span to wipe out the three-goal Irish advantage)--as the Irish twice fell behind by a pair of scores in the first half.
The good news is that the Irish scored four of the first five goals after intermission, three of those by Gleason over a 14-minute window.
Notre Dame came in having won three of its last four games, while Army West Point had lost three of its last four--including twice to current 16th-rated Loyola, the last in the Patriot League semifinals last Sunday.
Until the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship last weekend, Army had been the only team to defeat then-top rated Syracuse in a 14-13 victory in late February at the Carrier Dome. The Black Knights' only loss in their first 11 games came by two goals at 18th-ranked Rutgers. Army came in looking to become only second Black Knight team to post 12 victories.
Army, ranked as high as sixth nationally in mid-April, ranked ninth nationally in team defense, fifth in face-offs and fourth in ground balls. This marked the fourth straight year the Irish and Black Knights finished the regular season facing each other. The Irish had won all three of those, including 17-8 in 2015 at West Point.
With Garnsey on the sidelines (but in uniform) Wynne took charge early, notching his fifth hat trick (or more) in 2017 with three goals in a 13:28 span (including 68 seconds into the game and with :23.9 in the period). Doss controlled the action while making three first-period saves.
Army made that big second-period comeback from three goals down to take advantages at 6-4 and 7-5, thanks to those six second-period tallies (three by junior midfielder David Symmes). The Irish in the third period got a pair from Gleason (his second hat trick in as many games) and one from Bobby Gray to tie it at 8 after three periods.
Gleason gave Notre Dame its first lead since 4-3 early in the second period with a goal at 11:52 of the final period, then Army's leading scorer, senior attack Cole Johnson, tied it at 7:45.
The home team sent most of the 12,233 fans home happy when Symmes slipped past Drew Schantz, ran headlong into Bobby Collins yet still got off the game-winner (his career-high fourth goal of the afternoon) about a minute into the overtime session.
Notre Dame likely will play host to a first-round NCAA Championship contest (for the seventh straight year) next weekend when the bracket is announced Sunday night.
The Irish went to sleep late Saturday night still standing third on the NCAA RPI chart--and Kevin Corrigan's crew has ranked atop the NCAA Toughest Schedule list all year until this past week when it dropped to second.
Notre Dame certainly knows what it means to play under pressure--having played eight one-goal games (five wins). The five Irish defeats (all to currently ranked opponents) have come by a combined 10 goals.
The Irish resume shows wins over three teams that won their conference postseason tournament--Maryland (Big Ten), North Carolina (ACC) and Marquette (Big East).
Based on last week's RPI, the Irish possess victories over #1 Maryland (Notre Dame joins Villanova and Ohio State as the only teams to defeat the top-rated Terps so far in 2017), #7 Ohio State, #9 North Carolina and #10 Duke--while their defeats have come at the hands of #2 Syracuse, #6 Denver, #9 Carolina, #10 Duke and #17 Army West Point.
Notre Dame eight times has played host to NCAA first-round games--posting victories over Colgate (2008 in OT), Penn (2011), Yale (2012), Detroit (2013), Harvard (2014), Towson (2015) and Air Force (2016) and losing only in 2009 to Maryland.
Notre Dame players, coaches and staff will gather Sunday night in their Arlotta Stadium team room to watch the NCAA bracket announcement on ESPNU. Whatever the assignment, the Irish players will have to prepare during the same week they take final exams that begin Monday and run through Friday.
Notre Dame has been to at least the NCAA quarterfinals a record seven straight times--and the Irish, if they can regain their health, know they've got the pieces to be a major contender in May if they can get all those pieces to function at peak form.
There's no reason to think the 2017 NCAA bracket is anything but a wide-open affair based on what seemed like a record number of one-goal games nationally and the fact seven different teams (North Carolina, Denver, Maryland, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Penn State and Syracuse) held the number-one ranking (Inside Lacrosse poll) this season for at least a week. In fact, the Irish did that on two different occasions this spring.
Corrigan loved the fact that 10 days before the Army game, freshman long-stick midfielder Charlie Leonard, who had played zero minutes in 2017, asked what he could do to get better and have some chance to help in 2017. Circumstances dictated that he got that opportunity Saturday, facing off four times against the Black Knights.
Corrigan, Leonard and the rest of the Irish will know exactly what opportunities they have ahead of them by Sunday night.
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.