Notebook: Notre Dame's Cale Morris garners Richter Award, All-America honors

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent

SAINT PAUL, Minn. — Sophomore goaltender Cale Morris, already the Big Ten’s Goaltender and Player of the Year, was named to the CCM/American Hockey Coaches Association All-America West Team announced Friday afternoon.

Morris, who was 27-7-1 with four shutouts, a 1.94 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage, was the only Irish player honored by CCM, a hockey equipment manufacturer, and the AHCA.

Later, Morris was named the winner of the Mike Richter Goaltender of the Year Award.

Morris was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award — college hockey's national player of the year award, that went to junior forward Adam Gaudette of Northeastern. The late Lefty Smith was one of the founding fathers of the Hobey Baker Award, which honors a former Princeton hockey player who died in a plane crash following World War I.

Lucia in the pink

There was no one happier to see Notre Dame beat Michigan 4-3 in Thursday’s Frozen Four semifinals on Jake Evans’ goal with 5.2 seconds left in regulation than former Minnesota head coach Don Lucia.

Lucia recently retired as head coach of the Golden Gophers after a 19-year tenure that included back-to-back NCAA championships in 2002 and 2003 and a school-record 457 victories. He played defense for Notre Dame from 1977-81 under late head coach Lefty Smith, who left South St. Paul High School to become Notre Dame’s first coach of the modern era that began 50 years ago, in 1968.

Lucia, who sent his son Mario to play for current Irish head coach Jeff Jackson from 2012-16, watched Thursday night's game with his family in Xcel Energy Center suites reserved for Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick and other Irish hockey alumni.

“I was with my son (Tony), my wife and daughter-in-law,” Lucia related. “When they went up 3-2, I thought it was over, because they usually just lock it down. And then Michigan ties it.

“With a minute and half left in the game, my son said he had to get up and go to work, and if it goes into overtime, I’m leaving,” Lucia continued. “I made the remark that they’ve scored two goals in the last minutes of two of their last four games, so don’t leave yet. Lo and behold they scored that goal. It’s amazing. What a run they have been on.”

Ironically, Lucia’s Gophers were eliminated from NCAA Tournament consideration when Notre Dame beat Ohio State, 3-2 in overtime, on March 17 to win the Big Ten tourney championship. The Irish won the Big Ten regular-season title, winning three of four from Lucia’s Gophers. It was Lucia and Michigan’s Red Berenson who lobbied the Big Ten to accept Notre Dame as an affiliate member.

Lucia would love to see his alma mater finally win its first NCAA title if for no other reason than for the memory of his late coach, who died early in 2012. Smith, who was known to wear a pink sweater behind the bench, is still beloved by his players, and Lucia often wore pink ties when he directed his team against Jackson’s Irish.

“I just so hope they can finish it off,” Lucia said. “It’s the 50th year of Notre Dame hockey; it’s in Saint Paul, Lefty’s birthplace. It just seems so right. I just might have to pull out the old pink shirt, too, in honor of Lefty.”

Muffet’s Irish tweet

Muffet McGraw and Notre Dame’s NCAA champion women’s basketball team sent coach Jeff Jackson and his team a note after Thursday’s game via Twitter: “Welcome to the buzzer-beater club, @NDHockey! Go get that trophy Saturday.”

McGraw’s Irish, of course, won their national title last weekend in Columbus, Ohio, using a pair of buzzer-beating jumpers by Arike Ogunbowale to knock off top-ranked Connecticut and N No. 4 Mississippi State.

The Irish hockey team, which won 16 straight a one point during the regular season, will take a five-game winning streak into Saturday night’s Frozen Four championship game against Minnesota Duluth. In those five victories, the Irish have won three times in the final 31 seconds of regulation and twice in overtime.

Notre Dame goaltender Cale Morris (32) makes a save off a shot by forward Cal Burke (11) during NCAA college hockey practice, Wednesday in St. Paul. Minn. Notre Dame faces Minnesota Duluth, Saturday in the national championship of the Frozen Four tournament. (AP Photo/ANTHONY SOUFFLE)