For the second straight weekend, Cam Morrison kept Notre Dame's cardiac hockey season beating, this time in overtime against a taller, talented and more experienced Clarkson team in the NCAA Northeast Regional semifinals Friday night in Manchester, N.H.
Morrison stole Clarkson goalie Jim Kielly's clearing pass into the corner with his backhand and quickly went to his forehand to beat Kielly high to the near upper corner of the net at 15:53 of the extra season to give No. 12 Notre Dame a 3-2 victory over No. 7 Clarkson before 5,033 at the SNHU Arena.
Morrison, whose game-winning goal last Saturday in a 3-2 victory over Penn State won the Big Ten Tournament title and earned the Irish their 10th NCAA berth in 14 seasons under Jeff Jackson, was assisted by freshman right wing Michael Graham and senior defenseman Bobby Nardella. Nardella's game-tying goal at 17:40 of the third period came 19 seconds after Jackson had pulled Irish goalie Cale Morris for a sixth attacker.
"I've gotten more brazen in my old age," the 63-year-old Jackson joked after career victory No. 501. "The young guys have come into their own ... and then the experience from the older guys, when it comes to crunch time, they've found a way to elevate their game and to get everyone to buy into their roles and do everything that needs to be done to win hockey games."
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The fifth straight victory sends the 23-13-3 Irish, skating seven freshmen, into Saturday night's championship game at 6:30 against former Hockey East rival Massachusetts (29-9-0), which beat Harvard 4-0 earlier in the day. The winner moves on to the NCAA Frozen Four semifinals Thursday, April 11 at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo, N.Y.
"I think it shows the character we have in the room, and we're always positive and have that all-in mindset," said the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Morrison, a junior from Aurora, Ontario. "We knew they were tired so we were heavy on the puck and I found myself a couple feet from their 'D' (defense), so I attacked the net and just put it upstairs."
Kielly made 35 saves, six in overtime, and the 6-foot-2, 215-pound goalie from Eden Prairie, Minn., the hometown of Notre Dame's Graham (they are acquaintances), was never larger than when he stood his ground on a penalty shot awarded to Cal Burke at 8:27. Burke, who had assists on earlier Irish goals by Colin Theisen and Nardella, fired wide on the attempt.
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"Even before he took it, we just said whatever happens, nothing changes," Nardella said. "Our game plan doesn't change, our attitude doesn't change, we just will get right back after it and put as much pressure on them as we can."
Morris turned away 20 of 22 shots by Clarkson, the ECAC Hockey tournament champion that saw its season end at 26-11-2.
That was a tough one. Can't be more proud of the team. Awesome group of guys on and off the ice. We will miss our seniors. @JJokiharju, @marlyquince92 & @theThowShow. Congrats on an outstanding career - 87 victories. You made our program better!#LetsGoTech!— ClarksonHockey (@ClarksonHockey1) March 30, 2019
Marly Quince opened the scoring at 16:56 in a first period in which Notre Dame got the first nine shots on goal in the first 14 minutes. Theisen tied it at 4:58 of the second period before Haralds Egle, a junior from Latvia, put the Golden Knights ahead when his 30-foot sizzler burned Morris on its way into the net at 6:29 of the period.
It stayed 2-1 Clarkson, which killed off a major when its captain and leading scorer Nico Sturm hit Notre Dame's Alex Steeves from behind and into the boards, and was disqualified 19 seconds into the third period.
During the major, Jackson used a timeout and was without one until a late stoppage of play allowed him to pull Morris at 17:21 of the third period. Irish captain Andrew Peeke got the puck down low to Burke, who hails from Boxborough, Mass., 53 miles down the road. Burke carried it in and fed a streaking Nardella on the doorstep to Kielly's right. Nardella's high shot got some help from the pipe and went in at 17:40. Notre Dame then killed off a penalty to freshman Jake Pivonka late in regulation that carried into overtime.
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Notre Dame's first good effort of the night came when Theisen got a breakaway at 6:47, but he lost control of the puck on the doorstep before he could direct it past Kielly. The Clarkson goalie then stopped the Steeves brothers from nearby Bedford, N.H. -- first sophomore Matt and then freshman Alex -- on separate attempts at the period's midway point.
Notre Dame was pressuring midway through the 16th minute with its fourth line of Jack Jenkins, Piece Crawford and Matt Steeves when Clarkson's 6-foot-7 defenseman Connor McCarthy got control of the puck and cleared the zone to left wing Juho Jokiharju. The senior left wing from Finland head-manned it to Quince and skated toward the Irish goal for a return pass. The 25-year-old Quince, however, threw it on net and the puck bounced off Morris' right leg pad and behind him at 16:56 for a 1-0 Clarkson lead.
The Irish tied it at 4:58 of the second period after a Clarkston turnover in the neutral zone. Irish defenseman Nate Clurman stole the puck and gave the Irish a 2-on-1 break. Burke carried in and threw the puck across the ice to Theisen, who quickly directed it behind Kielly for his 11th of the season.
But the Golden Knights made it 2-1 on Egle's goal and he later had a chance to make it 3-1 when he broke behind the Irish defense and skated toward Morris, who challenged him and forced Egle to a backhander that hit the outside of the far post.
On the major power play, the Irish had the puck in the Clarkson zone for three minutes but managed only a couple of good shots at Kielly, who turned wrist shots by Burke and Graham away before Jackson called a timeout to regroup his power play at 3:45. But it didn't help.
Notre Dame's late-season winning streak is at five games -- the nation's best -- and has put these cardiac kids within one victory of a third straight Frozen Four and fifth during the tenure of Jackson, who won a pair of national titles in the 1990s at Lake Superior State.
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