College Hockey:
Lee’s unlikely OT goal sends Notre Dame past Merrimack

— It all ended in a flash.

Just over five minutes into overtime Saturday night, Merrimack’s Brendan Ellis circled behind the net, but Notre Dame’s Anders Lee swiped the puck off Ellis’ stick, and it shot off Merrimack goaltender Joe Cannata’s pads and into the net.

Notre Dame’s 4-3 victory sent it into the Northeast Regional final, where it will play New Hampshire.

“I credit Merrimack for playing a great game, and we were fortunate that our guys never said never and battled back to win the game,” Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said.

Going into overtime with the score tied at 3-3, Merrimack bombarded the Notre Dame net and goaltender Mike Johnson was forced to make save after save in desperation.

The Irish rallied from a 3-1 deficit, first with Lee scoring in the second period. His shot from the blue line bounced off Cannata’s glove, off the crossbar, and in the net to make the score 3-2.

Notre Dame finally got its legs in the third period and generated some consistent pressure from the perimeter on Cannata and outshot the Warriors 17-4 in the third period.

Finally, Riley Sheahan ripped a hard wrist shot on Cannata, who left a rebound for the driving Billy Maday to jam the puck behind Cannata to tie the game at 3-3.

“We’ve been through a lot of adversity this year and been through enough to know that if we were down one goal or two goals, we were still in the game,” said Maday.

The Warriors went into the locker room after the first period with a 2-1 lead, having outshot the Fighting Irish 15-11.

Merrimack was ready to go early, outskating Notre Dame in the first few minutes and owning the majority of puck possession.

Goaltenders Johnson and Cannata were poised and tracked the puck well early.

Johnson stopped hard net drives from Merrimack’s Elliot Sheen and Stephane Da Costa, and Cannata robbed Notre Dame’s T.J. Tynan and Sheahan from close range, leaving no rebounds.

Merrimack took a 1-0 lead on the power play after Notre Dame defenseman Stephen Johns was sent to the penalty box for boarding.

Merrimack’s Ryan Flanigan continued his hot streak after an amazing Hockey East tournament, and made an impact early, launching a hard shot on Johnson who left a rebound. Kyle Bigos was camped out in front and after multiple tries jammed in the loose puck for his first goal of the playoffs.

“You can see from the tidbits that you get to see how special these student-athletes are, and it humbles me quite a bit to see how hard they work,” Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy said.

Flanigan produced for the Warriors yet again, taking the puck into the ND zone on a two-on-one break with Costa for a short-handed bid. Da Costa slipped the puck over to Flanigan, who roofed the puck just under the crossbar for a 2-0 lead.

Notre Dame answered back with a goal a mere 27 seconds later with Maday finding Calle Ridderwall open in the slot to rip the puck past Cannata to get on the board.

Opening the second period, Merrimack played with fast intensity and won most of the one-on-one battles, while Notre Dame failed to match.

“We’ve always felt that we had a good enough team, and we’ve been able to come together in past couple of years and climb the ladder,” Merrimack captain Adam Ross said.

Merrimack took a 3-1 lead on a Notre Dame turnover deep in its zone, with Shawn Bates collecting the puck and finding Rhett Bly, who slipped it under Johnson.

After the Irish rallied, the teams traded chances, with Cannata making nice blocker saves and Johnson robbing Chris Barton on the doorstep with a spectacular split save.

Both goaltenders held out long enough to send the game to overtime.

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  • Miacometry

    Merrimack was by far the better team and its unfortunate to lose the way they did – great season – lookk to next year

    • MoWanchuck

      Geez, this is the first time I’ve ever seen the losing team declared the rightful winners. Merrimack was not the better team. They had stretches where they outplayed Notre Dame, but Notre Dame completely…..and I mean completely dominated the third period. Merrimack got two shots and neither was a high quality scoring opportunity. So let’s not pretend like Merrimack was robbed by a less deserving team.

      Merrimack had 3 PPs in the first but the shots were only 14-11 Merrimack, hardly domination. One of their goals was even flukier than the OT winner. A freshman ND defenseman whiffed on a clearing shot right in front of his own net which led to a G-I-F-T for Merrimack….but everyone is talking like Anders Lee hustle play was the big fluke play.

      Merrimack was good, but let’s not go overboard.

      • Spidermonkey86

        You have to put bad teams away. Merrimack manhandled Notre Dame for the first 42 Minutes of that game. There was a point Merrimack could have made the score 4-1 5-1, but couldn’t capitalize. The Notre Dame goalie had an abysmal night, but again Merrimack couldn’t put them away. Kind of like the Minnesota Holy Cross game a few years ago.

  • Siouxper Fan

    It’s too bad that game ended the way it did. I didn’t get to watch it, but I was happy to see Notre Dame outlast Merrimack. I think that this once again shows the HE isn’t as tough as their fans show on these boards other than Boston College. Don’t get me wrong, Merrimack is a good team. A really good team, but not Frozen Four material. They’re on the right track and they need to increase the competitive level against non-conference teams in their schedule, since many of those teams they play in the HE are .500, or lower, success.

    I think UNH will be inconsistent, like they have been all season, once again and lose in the finals tonight. I’m hoping this comes true so that HE brings nothing to the Frozen Four table.

    Denver OR North Dakota will do the WCHA proud tonight. Either team will make the championship game in a couple of weeks, beating Michigan. I’m also predicting Notre Dame playing against UM-Duluth in the Frozen Four and Notre Dame coming out on top. In the end, I’ll say at this point, UND beating Notre Dame 4-2 for the championship game.

    • HockeyEast fan

      Give the Hockey East thing a rest will you!!! Who are the last 3 National Champions?? Merrimack is on the rise, until Denehy goes to greener pasture. To say that HE isn’t as tough … let’s see, Merrimack in their first NCAA in YEARS played ND tough and from everything I’ve read, deserved to win just as much as ND. UNH knocked off Miami (yes, at home) and yes, I’ll admit that Colorado thoroughly outplayed BC Friday night. But don’t tell me that BU or Maine would not have given UND a better go than RPI? Or either of those schools wouldn’t have given UMD a getter game than Union?

      Let’s see what conference hoists the National Championship in 2 weeks.

    • BCnat.champsX3

      More WCHA arrogance. I’m hoping for a Michigan-UNH final with Hockey East getting their 4th straight championship.

      WCHA is the strongest conference from top to bottom no doubt, but Hockey East is close behind them. At least we won’t be having this conversation in a few years as the Big 10 will knock the WCHA down a few pegs.

      • B.D.

        If the Big East experiment lasts.

        It is hard to really have a decent league with only six teams, three of which are not fully supported by the culture at the school itself.

        • B.D.

          Remember, Minnesota used to be decent at Football………
          Or so my grandpa used to tell me.

  • Greghamann

    Anyone who doesn’t think that Hockey East is as competitve, or more competitive, than WCHA or CCHA doesn’t watch any games outside of their own conference. If your best proof is that Merrimack lost a game in overtime to Notre Dame, that’s pretty weak.

    Maybe look back to last year when BC obliterated Miami (CCHA) AND Wisonsin (WCHA) to win the National Championship. That’s the same BC team that squeezed by Vermont and then needed OT to beat Maine to win the Hockey East championship. Clearly the only competition they faced last post-season was in the Hockey East playoffs.


    You all oughta focus on the awful, awful P W R and the ECAC injustice in landing 3 LOSERS in the tourney. They proved the PWR for college hockey is nothing short of a joke.
    ECAC =1 WIN over an unranked opponent, 3 losses, 2 by shutout, and let’s hear it for thwe UNION POWER PLAY @ 31% ALL YR VERSUS WHAT KIND OF SCHEDULE ?

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