May 22, 2014
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NOTRE DAME, Ind. - A 6-5 win over Maryland in the semifinals of the ACC Championship changed the fate of Notre Dame's 2014 campaign and now the Irish will see the Terrapins again Saturday in the national semifinals.
The sixth-seeded Fighting Irish (11-5) and the seventh-seeded Terrapins (13-3) will faceoff at 3:30 p.m. (ET) at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md.
It will be the third encounter this season between the two programs. Maryland captured a 12-8 win over the Irish on April 19 at Arlotta Stadium. Notre Dame trailed 8-4 in that contest before storming back with four consecutive goals to tie it up early in the fourth quarter, but Maryland netted the final four goals of the game.
That loss dropped Notre Dame's record to 6-5 and left the Irish in desperate need of a victory when the two squads met again six days later at PPL Park in Chester, Pa. Maryland held a 4-1 lead early in the third quarter of that clash, yet the Irish mounted another comeback to even the affair, 4-4, less than two minutes into the fourth period. Maryland went back on top before Notre Dame responded a minute later to make it 5-5 with 8:30 remaining.
Neither team would score until the final dramatic moments when Irish defenseman Garrett Epple forced a Maryland turnover and Jack Near picked up the ground ball, raced down the field and assisted on Matt Kavanagh's game winner with seven seconds left on the clock. That result ignited Notre Dame's current five-game winning streak and four of those victories have been decided by a single goal.
"It's been a funny year. We've had some terrific wins and then we've dropped some and it's just been kind of an up and down thing," Notre Dame head coach Kevin Corrigan said. "Somebody said to me that we've been playing so loose and fast since the ACC tournament and I said, `Yeah, since about the time we went up 6-5 on Maryland we started playing loose and fast'. Until then, that was a nail-biter of a game and every pass seemed to get heavier and heavier.
"Then we come out in the next one (a 15-14 win over Syracuse in the ACC final) and I said let's just go play and I think that's when we're at our best. That plays to the strength of our team. We're an athletic team and we have a lot of guys who can make plays."
The second Maryland tilt was a microcosm of Notre Dame's season. Just when you think the Irish are done, they come back with a vengeance and have a flair for the dramatic. There was no better illustration of that than last Saturday's NCAA quarterfinal clash with Albany. After the Great Danes tallied six straight goals the Irish found themselves down 12-7 with just over eight minutes left to play and their season seemed like it would end in Hempstead, N.Y.
The team responded with four goals in less than two minutes and following another Great Dane goal, the Irish scored twice to tie things up (13-13) with just over three minutes left to play. The Notre Dame defense stopped Albany on the final possession of regulation and Kavanagh netted the winner 1:31 into overtime. A large reason for the comeback was the 10-man ride the Fighting Irish used in the fourth quarter. Notre Dame forced seven turnovers in the final nine minutes of regulation.
"It (the 10-man ride) changes our mentality," Corrigan said. "We get up on the balls of our feet and just play so much more aggressively all over the field. If we get turnovers, we get great offensive situations out of them.
"One of the most underrated things when people talk about our attackmen is how well they ride. Our guys are terrific riders and create turnovers throughout the game."
Kavanagh's final goal versus Albany was his third career overtime game winner. Last season, he scored in overtime against Penn State and North Carolina (3ot). The sophomore has 12 goals and six assists in four career NCAA tournament games. He has three hat tricks in tournament play and has registered at least three points in all four contests.
"It (the game winner against Albany) was awesome," Kavanagh said. "It was especially great to do it here at Hofstra because I live about 10 minutes away and I had a bunch of family here. It was incredible."
Saturday was the second time this season that Notre Dame overcame a five-goal deficit in the second half. The Fighting Irish were down 8-3 at North Carolina (March 1) early in the third quarter before scoring five straight times to tie the game less than 30 seconds into the final period of an eventual 11-10 victory.
"We are thrilled to be here (Championship Weekend) and it couldn't have happened in a more exciting fashion," Corrigan said. "I'm extremely proud of our guys for the way they played the other day with their backs against the wall, but it's become our identity late in the season."
-- Sean Carroll, Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director