NCAA Hockey Northeast Regional Live Blog: Notre Dame Eliminates UNH to Advance to Frozen Four

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March 27, 2011

NCAA Hockey Northeast Regional Live Blog: Notre Dame Eliminates UNH to Advance to Frozen Four

Final, Notre Dame 2-1: It was all about UNH's missed opportunities in the regional final, and Notre Dame played a nearly perfect defensive game to knock out the fourth-seeded Wildcats. The Fighting Irish will advance to the Frozen Four for the first time since 2008, and they'll take on Minnesota Duluth.

Third period, 1:44, Notre Dame 2-1: UNH continued to have trouble entering the zone on the power play, and it was heavily booed by the home crowd. What's worse for the Wildcats, Mike Beck just took a tripping penalty during a Notre Dame rush, and the Wildcats will be undermanned while trying to tie the game.

Third period, 4:03, Notre Dame 2-1: UNH has its chance. David Gerths was whistled for tripping Kevin Goumas, and the Wildcats will have their third power play of the game.

Third period, 6:23, Notre Dame 2-1: And there it is. Mike Sislo took a nice pass in the slot from Damon Kipp, and he made a quick move before shuffling the puck past Mike Johnson. It took 34 shots, but the Wildcats have beaten Johnson, and Sislo celebrated with a "finally" type of expression.

Third period, 6:40, Notre Dame 2-0: It's been more of the same in the third period. Matt DiGirolamo has made two big saves in the last few minutes to keep UNH within striking distance, and his most recent effort kept Anders Lee from padding the lead.

Third period, 15:22, Notre Dame 2-0: Chalk up another big stop for Mike Johnson. The puck bounced through the slot, from Kevin Goumas' stick to Stevie Moses' lumber, but Moses couldn't chop it through Johnson from just outside the crease.

Third period, 17:29, Notre Dame 2-0: Let me expand on that last point. UNH needs to catch a break, too. Notre Dame has been so steady in the defensive zone that it's been hard for UNH to create a second chance. The Wildcats need a bounce in their favor in a big way, but they need one against a team that won Saturday due to about a dozen friendly bounces.

Third period, 19:59, Notre Dame 2-0: UNH needs its best 20 minutes of the year to extend its season. The Wildcats have done it all but finish so far, and that will be the difference here.

Second intermission, Notre Dame 2-0: Plain and simple, I don't like UNH's chances after two periods. The Wildcats have played well, no doubt about it, but they're having a hard time finishing their chances. This hurt them through two periods Saturday, and it has done the same through two periods Sunday. They've certainly got enough firepower and talent to make a run at this, but they've got to be the undisputed hardest working team on the ice for the next 20 minutes for that to happen.

Second period, 0:05, Notre Dame 2-0: That's a killer for UNH. Billy Maday took a great feed in the slot from Riley Sheahan and made a quick move before backhanding the puck over Matt DiGirolamo's blocker. This came just a few seconds after Mike Johnson made his second strong glove save of the period — first on Kevin Goumas, then on John Henrion — to preserve Notre Dame's lead.

Second period, 5:01, Notre Dame 1-0: Mike Sislo, who scored Saturday's game-winner, has been denied of another great scoring chance. This time, his one-timer from the slot was shuttered aside by Mike Johnson, who has been really solid in this one. Even though UNH is loaded with talent, I can't be sure the Wildcats can come back from a two-goal deficit, and they've got to do a better job with these opportunities. They can at least be optimistic with the way Matt DiGirolamo has played to keep this a one-goal game.

Second period, 6:23, Notre Dame 1-0: It is absolutely shocking that Notre Dame didn't score in that last stretch. The Irish kept the puck on the UNH side of the ice for two and a half minutes and generated five solid opportunities, including two point-blank shots from Riley Sheahan. UNH is playing with fire right now.

Second period, 8:56, Notre Dame 1-0: UNH did a good job to counter Notre Dame's initial attack in the second period, but the Wildcats haven't really had any legitimate scoring threats. They're sustaining possession in the Irish zone, but their shots are coming from outside Notre Dame's containment. I said it during the first intermission, but UNH has to do something to create some opportunities off the rebound because Mike Johnson isn't letting anything by him when he can see it.

Phil DeSimone was called for holding, giving Notre Dame its first power play of the game.

Second period, 15:00, Notre Dame 1-0: The Irish have really controlled the first five minutes of the second period, and they had a great opportunity to double their lead on Jeff Costello's one-timer from the slot. But Costello sent it right at Matt DiGirolamo.

Second period, 17:03, Notre Dame 1-0: Notre Dame cleared the puck and stacked the line when UNH tried to enter the zone, and that worked well for Miami on Saturday. As a result, UNH's power play was slow and couldn't set anything up. I don't like the way UNH takes so long to regroup in those situations.

Second period, 19:13, Notre Dame 1-0: UNH will get its second power play of the game after Ben Ryan trucked Matt DiGirolamo, who was shaken for a moment in his own net.

First intermission, Notre Dame 1-0: UNH was the better team in the first period, but it's trailing by a goal. Stevie Moses and Kevin Goumas — two forwards who should really lead the team next season — led a couple of rushes late in the period but turned the puck over before generating a scoring chance. UNH should feel good about the way it's playing, despite the score. Notre Dame has done a pretty good job of forcing shots from the outside and quickly clearing rebound opportunities, so that's got to be a big emphasis for the Wildcats as they talk things over in the locker room.

In related news, Boston College junior forward Cam Atkinson — the team's leading scorer, and the Hockey East tournament MVP — signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Blue Jackets on Sunday. That's a tough loss for BC after its unexpected early departure from the NCAA tournament. At the very least, BC will have to replace its two leading scorers and a four-year starter in net next season. This will be the team's toughest challenge since losing Nathan Gerbe.

First period, 4:52, Notre Dame 1-0: Notre Dame couldn't score on a two-on-one. Billy Maday took the puck into the zone on the right side, and he had Anders Lee collapsing across the slot — the pair combined for three goals Saturday — but Maday's point-blank shot was stuffed by Matt DiGirolamo.

First period, 7:10, Notre Dame 1-0: UNH had its best power play of the weekend, but it didn't amount to a tying goal. Notre Dame doesn't play with the same amount of pressure as Miami on the penalty kill, and that gave the Wildcats a chance to set up in the zone and work the puck around. With the amount of talent UNH has on its power play, as well as Saturday's struggles, I've got to imagine those skilled forwards are champing at the bit to convert one in this game.

First period, 9:42, Notre Dame 1-0: Notre Dame kept the momentum going after the goal and controlled possession for a few minutes, but Sean Lorenz got called for tripping Mike Sislo in the corner of the Notre Dame zone, giving UNH the game's first power play. The UNH power play had a poor showing against Miami, so let's see what type of difference a day makes.

First period, 12:34, Notre Dame 1-0: Just like Saturday's overtime, indeed. Less than 20 seconds after the media timeout (15 to be exact), Stephen Johns sent a slap shot through traffic that found the back of the net. It didn't appear to deflect off anyone, so I'm assuming Matt DiGirolamo never saw it. Notre Dame has really taken advantage of these timeouts in play to settle down and reverse momentum.

First period, 12:49, 0-0: UNH has peppered Mike Johnson with four shots in the last two and a half minutes, but Johnson has stayed steady. The last stretch was similar to the way Merrimack started overtime against the Irish on Saturday, both in pace and lack of scoring.

First period, 15:16, 0-0: It's been a relatively slow start, but UNH has had a slight advantage in chances so far. Hockey East Player of the Year Paul Thompson just had a nice shift, drilling two Notre Dame captains into the boards in succession — Joe Lavin and Ben Ryan.

First period, 19:59, 0-0: And they're off in Manchester. Winner gets Duluth in the Frozen Four.

8:00 p.m.: UNH has a decided advantage in crowd support, and the building is about two-thirds full with a few minutes to go until face-off. Matt DiGirolamo is in net for UNH, and Notre Dame is going with Mike Johnson.

7:42 p.m.: UNH and Notre Dame have finished their pregame warmups and have departed for the locker rooms for one last time before the drop of the puck. UNH is again wearing all blue, while Notre Dame has made the switch to its home white sweaters.

8 a.m.: New Hampshire didn't have a lot of time to celebrate after its shocking upset of top-seeded Miami, as it must quickly refocus to take on Notre Dame in Sunday night's Northeast regional final at Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H.

The Wildcats have a slight advantage. They played the first game Saturday, and Notre Dame went to overtime with Merrimack. The third-seeded Fighting Irish will have less than 22 hours to recoup before getting back on the ice.

Fourth-seeded UNH played with a level of desire Saturday that had been missing for quite some time, and if it stays with that Sunday, it will have a tremendous opportunity to advance to its first Frozen Four since 2003.

The winner of Sunday night's game will take on Minnesota Duluth in the Frozen Four, and that will be a serious test with the game in St. Paul, Minn.

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