BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Following Friday’s overtime win against Michigan Tech, Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson quipped that the Fighting Irish’s play was having an adverse impact on his health.
Jackson will have to put off any upcoming checkups, as Notre Dame and its heart-stopping style of play are headed to the Frozen Four for the second consecutive year.
Dylan Malmquist scored with 27 seconds left in regulation to give top-seeded Notre Dame a 2-1 win over No. 2 Providence in the NCAA East Regional final Saturday at the Webster Bank Arena.
The Fighting Irish lost to Denver in the national semifinals last season and will face the winner of Sunday’s Boston University-Michigan game on April 5 in St. Paul, Minn.
“I’m really proud of our guys; they’ve been resilient all year long,” Jackson said. “I call them the cardiac kids for a reason. Hopefully, it’s not my cardiac. They find a way to win, regardless of the situation.”
After watching Michigan Tech tie the game late in the third period Friday, Notre Dame staged a late comeback of its own Saturday. Providence led 1-0 late in the second, but Andrew Oglevie scored to tie the game at 18:09, setting up Malmquist’s goal in the closing seconds of the last period.
The junior’s game-winner came as Notre Dame gained the zone and set up its attack deep in the Friar zone.
“Our game plan the whole night was just to chip pucks by them,” Malmquist said. “Oglevie had a great first touch behind the net and [Cal] Burke made an incredible pass to me in the slot and I was lucky enough to get a stick on it.”
But it has been the play of sophomore Cale Morris in net that has allowed Notre Dame (27-9-2) to survive the wild rides it’s taken its coach on this season. Morris, who leads the nation in save percentage and is a Hobey Baker Award finalist, made only 19 saves against the Friars but has been kept busy this year as he’s had a front-row view to Notre Dame’s comebacks.
“It’s definitely been a roller coaster,” Morris said. “We’ve had those tight games all year, so we’re kind of made for that at this point of the year. We know that we can handle any situation.”
Saturday’s matchup also was a familiar situation for the Fighting Irish, as Notre Dame played with Providence in Hockey East from 2013 until moving to the Big Ten to start this season.
“They have a veteran D corps,” Friars coach Nate Leaman said. “They transition so well as a team. Everyone says they are so structured, maybe even over structured. I disagree with that. They move the puck really well.”
Notre Dame enters the Frozen Four having played five consecutive one-goal games, including two overtimes. The Fighting Irish are 4-1 in that stretch.
“Playoff hockey is definitely going to come down to one lucky bounce, one play like that, so knowing that we’ve been there all season and had success definitely helps going into the Frozen Four,” said Morris, who played one game last season as a backup behind Cal Petersen.
The Friars took a 1-0 lead when Kasper Bjorkqvist jumped on a loose puck and beat Morris 2:02 into the opening period. It was Bjorkqvist’s second goal in as many nights, but that was all Providence could muster despite several good chances throughout the game.
“A big part of our game is keeping things simple,” sophomore Jacob Bryson said. “We don’t want to rush. Tonight, we just couldn’t finish our chances.”
It didn’t help that leading scorer Erik Foley missed the third period after taking a hit in the second period. “He wasn’t feeling right, so we took him out,” Leaman said.
The Fighting Irish tied it on Oglevie’s second-period power-play goal. Providence goalie Hayden Hawkey made the initial save, but the puck bounced through a crowd of players to a waiting Oglevie in the slot.
Notre Dame nearly took the lead in the final seconds of the middle period. Hawkey (23 saves) slid to his left to make a save on a crashing Colin Theisen and lost his footing as the puck went to a Fighting Irish skater in front of the net. But Notre Dame couldn’t convert as the horn sounded to end the period.
For the Friars (24-12-4), Saturday marked the last game for the senior class that won the national title game as freshmen in 2015. That five-member senior class ended their careers as leaders of a young Providence team that Leaman thinks can use the loss to get better for next year.
“Being young, we need to develop our bodies more in the offseason,” Leaman said. “It’s no fun when you are this close. Yes, we are young, but you can only get better if you learn from these experiences once the sting is gone.”