Opening Weekend Series Against UAH
Your Fighting Irish opened up the season just like they wanted too, opening up the 2017-2018 campaign with a sweep of the two game weekend series against the University of Alabama-Huntsville Chargers. This weekend’s games gives us plenty to review and discuss. This recap will go through the highlights of the first two games and will finish up with a question to Coach Jackson about next weekend’s opponent, the University of Denver Pioneers, whom the Irish faced last year in the Frozen Fourand are the number one team in the country.
Friday Night: Game 1
The first period saw the Irish spend a lot time in the offensive zone, notching 16 shots on goal compared to the 9 shot attempts made by the Chargers. The Irish also dominated in the face-off circle by winning the 15 of the 19 face-offs in the period.
The offense did everything they could do try to score in the first period. They tried a wrister, a couple of high heat one-timers, including Bobby Nardella hitting the post at one point. Despite their best efforts, first period ended deadlocked at 0-0.
In the second period, both teams came out of the locker room with something to prove. With 26 seconds remaining on a power play that carried over from the end of the first period, Nardella scored the first goal of the evening, assisted by Cam Morrison and Jake Evans.
The fans in attendance did not get a chance to enjoy the first goal as UAH scored 36 seconds later.
Next came a trading of goals. Colin Theisen scored his first collegiate goal, giving the Irish a 2-1 advantage. The Chargers quickly answered and tied the game at 2 all, but the scoring was far from over. The Chargers would take a 3-2 lead a few moments later on a power play goal to give UAH their first lead.
As the period was wrapping up, the Irish made one more push to light the lamp and they did with a Dennis Gilbert blast that tied the score at 3-3.
In the third period, Irish captain, Jake Evans stepped up and opened the scoring in the period, assisted by Jordan Gross and Andrew Oglevie. Down, 4-3, the Chargers began their final charge, pulling their goalie to gain an extra attacker. In an ensuing face-off the Irish went a man down as Gilbert took a slashing penalty, putting the Irish in a 6-on-4 disadvantage. However, Captain Jake Evans would not allow that to happen and found the back of the empty net, scoring his second goal of the period, again assisted by Gross. The “shorty” for the captain on opening night gave ND a final insurance goal to make the score 5-3 and secure an Irish victory.
The Irish were dominate throughout the game. They won 41 of the 63 face-offs, and out-shot the Chargers 40-28. Cale Morris had a solid night in goal as well stopping 25 of the 28 shots he faced.
The Three Stars of the of the game were: UAH Tyler Poulson (2 goals), Jordan Gross (3 assists), and Jake Evans (2 goals and an assist).
Post-game, I asked Coach Jack about Cale Morris keeping his head in the game while the Irish where consistently in the opposite side of the ice on offense. His response: “It’s something that most goaltenders go through. A lot of it is how we practice, cause there is going to sustained play in one zone and that’s something young goaltenders are really forced to learn cause it works both ways sometimes. You can have sustained pressure in your own zone too. It’s hard to maintain that focus when there is a large amount of time in the other opposing teams other end and then the next play is a 2-on-1. I thought Cale did a good job tonight and it was a good start for him. I thought we were a little jittery. The puck was bouncing a lot on us. We had some stretches that we were really good, and then we had some stretches that I thought we were making some soft plays on the puck.”
In regards to the Irish taking some penalties in the second period that lead to a couple big penalty kills and changing the momentum of the game: “Killing off the 5-on-3 was really important because at that time we were already down by a goal, and going down by two wouldn’t have been good. Kudos to the guys that killed it off, both on the back-end and up front, and Cale made a few saves for us. All in all that was certainly the turning point in the game for us.”
In regards to the freshmen performances: “Theisen showed us what kind of shot he’s got. I thought Max Eisenmenger played well. I moved him over to right-wing when I shortened the bench. All in all, I thought Matt Hellickson was really good. All in all, I thought they did a great job tonight.”
Saturday Night: Game 2
A different day brought on a completely different game, opening up with a completely different attitude. Early on in the first period, emotions were flying between the Irish and the Chargers, setting the stage for what would be an unbelievable evening for the fighting Irish.
Andrew Oglevie would go on to score two goals both which would occur at 19:59 at the end of the first period (power play) and second period. Goalie Dylan St. Cyr was challenged throughout the evening facing a 5-on-3 power play and a total of 34 shots on goal–all stopped in his first collegiate start. Yes, the freshman pitched a shut out his first time between the pipes to close out the sweep of the series.
In the first period, St. Cyr set the pace for the evening. He faced an incredible 15 shots in the first period, which was almost half of the shots he ending up facing in the entire game. He was seeing the puck well, standing tall, and filling the goal like he was a wall.
As I mentioned earlier, emotions were flying high as tempers flared and the Irish found themselves in the penalty box three times in the first period. Despite this, the Irish led 1-0 after the first period on Oglevie’s aforementioned last-second goal.
The second period opened up for the Irish building on the emotional high with Oglevie’s last second heroics. Jordan Gross rode that wave, scoring his first goal of the season, assisted by Evans.
St. Cyr faced a 5-on-3, but solid goaltending backed by a strong penalty kill allowed the Irish to escape unscathed.
Oglevie amazed everyone with yet another 19:59 goal, something that only Hollywood would’ve thought to script. After the unassisted goal, the Irish ended the second up 3-0.
The third period was much like the second. St. Cyr continued to stand tall in goal and Irish Freshman, Matt Steeves, scored his first collegiate goal and the final goal of the evening, giving the Irish a 4-0 win.
The Irish were out shot in the game 34-31, but faceoffs went to the Irish 33-20. The Irish also went 1-4 on the power play, but the stat of the night went to Freshman goaltender St Cyr who stopped all 34 shots.
The Three Stars of the of the game were: Jake Evans (2 assists), Star Andrew Olgevie (2 goals), and freshman Goalie Dylan St. Cyr (34 stopped shots, first collegiate shutout).
During the press conference, Coach Jackson lauded his freshman goalie: “We knew he was a good goaltender. He won the World U18 Championships last year. He’s a real competitor, he likes to handle the puck. he is a very intelligent goaltender, he knows how big he is, and he uses that to his advantage, there will be teams that will and crowd his crease, and that really doesn’t bother him.” Jackson also noted that goaltending “runs in the [St. Cyr] family.”
In regards to what this weekend showed Jackson: “There’s a lot of positives. We are still evaluating people. We had another Freshman score a goal. It’s still an evaluation for us, but there are a lot of positives.”
With UAH now in the rear-view, I asked a question about preparing for Denver and last year’s Frozen Four game. Jackson responded: “That was then this is now. I just told them in the room, we’re not going to blow this out of proportion. It’s a big series, playing the number one ranked team in the country and justifiably so. They’re a very talented team, returning a lot of highly talented guys. They know it. We will have a normal work week and this early in the season. We need to just keep getting better and work on our game. We will work on next week when it comes.”
This young team definitely has some great chemistry. The team has adopted a next man up personality as they are being hit with the injury bug early on. St. Cyr, in my eyes, is the clear starting goalie on this team. He has a special look to him when he is in-goal and the puck is flying around the net. Jake Evans, the captain of the squad, shows no sense of nervousness and has been involved on most of the scoring plays in the first two games, having the “nerves of steel” you want in your captain.
Congratulations to the Irish on the sweep. Next up is the Denver Pioneers on Friday night at 7:05 PM.