Irish beat Providence, advance in league tourney

Steve Lowe Tribune Correspondent
ND Insider

SOUTH BEND — In its final season in Hockey East, Notre Dame is headed back to Boston to try one last time for a league tournament title.

Jordan Gross and Bobby Nardella scored third period goals Saturday to break a third period tie and lead the 12th-ranked Irish to a 5-2 win and quarterfinal series sweep of No. 10 Providence.

The Irish have lost just once since since Jan. 28 and make their second trip to Boston’s TD Garden for the Hockey East semifinals with a lot of momentum.

“This group’s been fun,” said Irish coach Jeff Jackson, “They’ve really figured it out the second half of the season and they’re playing unselfishly, which is the most important thing to me.”

And in sweeping a team that was just ahead of them in the PairWise rankings, the Irish have likely punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament in the process.

Cam Morrison had a goal and an assist for Notre Dame (21-10-5) and Anders Bjork contributed a pair of assists. Irish goaltender Cal Petersen stopped 71 of the 73 shots he saw on the weekend.

“As I said (Friday) night, you don’t win without great goaltending and (Petersen) has given us that,” Jackson said. “And now we get to go to Boston.”

Neither team scored in a first period marked by a frightening moment for Providence. With 5:22 left in the period, sophomore right wing Garrett Gamez collapsed on the Friars’ bench, causing his teammates to frantically call for help. Notre Dame’s medical staff was quickly brought across the ice by Irish players and Gamez got back to his feet before being helped back to the Providence locker room.

Friars coach Nate Leaman said Gamez was taken to an area hospital and did not have further information on his condition following the game.

“I’ve never been part of that before,” Leaman said. “Garrett’s a great kid and a great teammate,

and I think a lot of guys were concerned. We just tried to refocus between periods, but it was just tough.”

Brian Pinho gave Providence its first lead of the weekend halfway through the second period, the first goal on Petersen in 60 PC shots to that point.

It didn’t take long for the Irish to tie it just over two minutes later when Cam Morrison finished a perfect tic-tac-toe passing sequence from Anders Bjork and Jake Evans on the power play.

Gross gave Notre Dame the lead just 21 seconds into the third period on a blistering wrist shot from the point, and Nardella made it 3-1 with 12:31 left following a long possession in the PC zone with a low blast from nearly the same spot on the ice.

“I was just trying to get it to the net as quick as possible,” Nardella said of his game-winner. “Luckily it went in and it was a big goal.”

Providence got one back with 8:42 to play on Pinho’s second, a power play goal, but Dylan Malmquist tossed in a pair of empty net tallies in the final minute to seal the Irish win.

“We got down a couple men early in that game,” Leaman said. “We just kind of ran out of gas there at the end.”

FIRST PERIOD

No scoring. Shots on goal: PC 12, ND 9; Penalties: PC 3-6, ND 1-2.

SECOND PERIOD

PC - Brian Pinho, 11 (Jake Walman) 10:48; ND - Cam Morrison, 9 (Jake Evans, Anders Bjork) PP, 12:58. Shots: ND 14, PC 9; Penalties: PC 1-2, ND 1-2.

THIRD PERIOD

ND - Jordan Gross, 10 (Bjork) 0:21; ND - Bobby Nardella, 7 (Andrew Oglevie, Morrison) 7:29; PC - Pinho, 12 (Spenser Young, Walman) PP, 11:18; ND GOAL: Dylan Malmquist, 9 (Jack Jenkins, Andrew Oglevie) EN, 18:55; ND - Malmquist, 10 (Oglevie, Dennis Gilbert) EN, 19:38. Shots: ND 15, PC 9; Penalties: ND 1-2, PC 0-0.

PC 0 1 1 - 2

ND 0 1 4 - 5

Shots: ND 38, PC 30; Saves: PC 33 (Hayden Hawkey), ND 28 (Cal Petersen); Power plays: PC 1-2, ND 1-3; Penalties: PC 4-8, ND 3-6; Attendance: 4,239.

Notre Dame’s Jordan Gross (3) passes the puck down ice during the Boston College at Notre Dame hockey game in Compton Family Ice Arena Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA