ST. PAUL, Minn. — When Notre Dame fell behind 2-0 early in the second period on Thursday’s Frozen Four semifinal against Michigan, the stage was set for its set of captains to step up and help pull the team back to level pegging.
The leadership group did just that. Senior captain Jake Evans scored Notre Dame’s second goal to tie the game at two goals apiece and scored the game-winning goal to give the Irish a 4-3 victory with less than six seconds left in the third period when the game seemed destined for overtime.
Notre Dame will face Minnesota Duluth in the NCAA championship game on Saturday. The Irish are seeking their first national title.
Evans scored the game winner thanks to a nice feed from Cam Morrison. Both of the players had defenders draped all over them.
“I just saw Cam flying on the wing, and he’s got such great speed and he’s a strong guy and I thought he’d have a chance at getting a shot or just going hard to the net,” Evans said. “I knew there was a little bit of time left, so I thought I’d give it one last rush, and Cam just did a really good job of putting it out there for me.”
The senior captain’s contribution at the end of the game was possible because junior alternate captain Andrew Oglevie scored Notre Dame’s first goal of the game. The team’s other alternate captain, Jordan Gross, assisted on that goal and Evans’ first tally.
Coach Jeff Jackson was complimentary of his leadership group after the game.
“They’ve been incredible all year; there’s a reason why they’re captains,” he said of Evans and Oglevie specifically. “When you get to this time of year you rely on your upperclassmen to be there at the most important times of the game. That’s what great players do.
“Jake, he’s had a great year and he’s had an even better year probably as captain of this team,” Jackson added. “And Andrew is right there with him. They wear their hearts on their sleeves. They’ve got some ability and they take advantage of it.”
Even though they were the two players who spurred the comeback, Oglevie and Evans both said that they didn’t need to calm the team down when they were two goals in the hole.
“I don’t think it’s settle the team down, I think it’s make sure our spirits are still high,” Oglevie said. “Everyone knows that we can do this and we believe. We really didn’t have to do too much tonight — Frozen Four, it’s not hard to get energized. And guys knew that down two goals, anything can happen still early in a game.”
Evans spread the praise for the comeback across the whole roster.
“It wasn’t the leaders that needed to step up, it was a lot of the young guys were even stepping up which is a really good sign for us,” he said. “Like I’ve been saying, it’s just such a calm and confident team that it wasn’t panic mode yet and we fought back with our positivity and our energy and our confidence.”
Evans, Oglevie, Gross and Cal Burke, who scored Notre Dame’s third goal, are the only players on the roster with double-digit goals this season. Oglevie and Burke are tied for the team lead with 13. Jackson said that scoring by committee is crucial for the Irish to be successful.
“It’s different guys every night,” he said. “Tonight, it was Jake and Andrew. It varies from game to game. But you need to get production from more than just a couple guys.”