The first quarter of this game was a typical GWLL see-saw quarter. Back and forth possessions, and a pair of saves for each goalie. Each team was successful is stifling drives of the other. Denver’s game plan, according to coach Jamie Munro, much like the past two games against Notre Dame, “was to try to limit Pat Walsh, one of the best attackmen in the country. They are a quick strike offense, a well-oiled machine, and we wanted to pressure them to get them out of sync. Our seniors had lost to them three straight times and I don’t think they wanted to face that again.” Pressure them, the Pioneers certainly did, throwing double teams at ND everywhere, up top, the sides and behind. This resulted in key strips when ND was getting ready to strike. More often than not, Denver would let the Irish work the ball around and set up, and then double the ball carrier just before he broke or passed. The Pioneers held the Irish offense, coming in aaveraging 12 goals a game to half that.
It wasn’t just the double team. Denver won almost half of the face offs, taking away the advantage the Irish had enjoyed early in the year at the center stripe. Brian Sanders, the DU goalie was in the zone today, making 9 saves, most of them on shots from 3 yards out. One “save” occurred when Sanders was down and Jim Morrison shot at what appeared to be an open net, but the bal hit Sanders and rolled sideways, keeping it from crossing the goal line. Denver struck first in the second quarter, but Notre Dame quickly tied it and the two teams twice traded goals, taking a tie into the beginning of into the third quarter. Denver then jumped to a two goal lead and never looked back
The first goal came at 13:58 of the second quarter with Greer Hanlon (a Chicagoland lax product) moving up top on the left, feinting a go through the center, He spotted Ryan Zordani 3 yards off the crease of the right and passed. Zordani, used a quick stick to drive it past Irish goalie Joey Kemp. In the next few possessions by ND, Denver put pressure on attacker Jim Morrison and twice forced Morrison to uncharacteristically cough up the ball. Drew Peters evened the score for ND, coming from the top and right to left, using a strong right hand shot. Hanlon made some good runs through the crowd in front of the crease but telegraphed his attempt and Kemp easily stopped him, but the ball bounced out of his crosse into the front of the crease and into the air, where it was timely swatted away by an Irish defender. (Hanlon was the trigger for the Denver offense today, working the ball around the top and to the back, then coming back top and looking to hit Matt Brown or Ryan Zordani.) Kemp then stoned Zordani as he came around the right pipe.
A few minutes passed and Denver got on the board again with a solo shot by Mike Goltra at 8:48 came around the right pipe and out and turned to shoot at Kemp’s left side, and slid the ball past Kemp into the net. Both Matt Karweck and Mike Podgajny had strong shots, but both were wide. Notre Dame had a lot of good looks today, but many of their shots were forced wide by the Denver defense, which held the Irish offense coming into the game at 4th in offense at 12 goal per game, to a single digit production. The Denver quartet of Bart Sullivan, Chris Anderson, Rory Shepard and Andy MacDonnell played flawlessly together today and MacDonell did a great job on keeping Pat Walsh from ringing up many assists. At 6:09 of the second, in a Notre Dame drive, Jim Morrison ran hard along the near left toward the goal as if he were going to shoot in order to draw a slide. The slide left an open passing lane to Matt Karweck on the near right, who used a stick jiggle and then easily slid it past Sanders to tie the score at 2-2. Matt Brown of Denver was hit in stride on the right side by Goltra, and Brown had the angle on Kemp to put Denver up 3-2. Sanders had a nice deflection of a shot by Podgajny, which Morrison recovered and fed back to Podgajny up left, who was sandwiched by two Denver defensemen. Scott Davidson of Denver had a neat opportunity, when he tried to sneak a grounder through the legs of an Irish defender, but Kemp was eyeing him the whole time, and neatly made the save to end the half at 3-2, Denver.
ND tied the game in the beginning of the third quarter at 12:36 when Morrison was fed by Giordano and beat Sanders. This kid Morrison came out of nowhere this season after sitting out last year to recover from back surgery. One would never know he had such surgery for he plays the crease hard, darting in and out coming from outside and behind and then riding the other team hard. In the waning moments of the game (00:30), Morrison put Sanders (the Denver goalie) out of the game when he cane around his back and checked Sanders stick while sanders was passing and Morrison’s stick slid off on solidly onto Sanders’ knee. The prognosis at game end was a deep knee bruise. Morrison is a throwback, playing hard on O and on D, and seems to spark Notre Dame’s offense when needed. Morrison made the game tying shot using his left after being fed from the right by Girodano.
Denver quickly jumped on the Irish winning the face and having Brett Koll set up Zordani running a fast break hard down the right side. Zoirdani beat Kemp 6 ticks after the Irish had scored and Denver was again in the lead, 4-3. Denver won the next face, moved the ball down and Matt Borwn picked the ball off the ground and hammered it behind Kemp to lead 5-3. Matt Karweck looked for and caught Morrison at 8:12 from left behind the net, and Morrison squatted when he caught the ball and then used a hard right hand low to beat Sanders. 5-4. Some errors on the part of the Irish dropping a few passes killed a few drives. Denver was successful in doubling Craig Bishko, who was able to flip it to defender DJ Driscoll. Driscoll was doubled by Denver and held the ball too long and the Irish were rung up fro a failure to clear timely. At 2:06 of the third quarter, Scot Davidson come down the right and beat Kemp to make it 6-4 to end the quarter.
Denver came out swinging in the fourth quarter and scored at 14:18 when Zordani came on the right and used a nondescript shot to beat Kemp, 7-4. The Irish won the faceoff, and Drew Peters of ND used a nice roll move from the left side to score. 7-5. One of Walsh’s feeds to Karweck was intercepted and Denver converted on the theft when Adam Miller tossed to Geoff Snider and Snider used a roller shot to beat Kemp. 8-5. Matt Brown added another goal to get his trick for the day at 6:34 to put Denver up 9-5. No Irish comeback was in the works, but Lucius Polk converted the final Irish tally on a feed on the left side from Karweck. Denver played through defense in the last 5 of the game and ran the clock down whenever they would go to the ND goal. A quick pick by ND with 3 second to go, resulted in a Gilman pass to Morrison, who caught, turned and fired, but didn’t beat the horn. So no last second goal was awarded. It would not have mattered, for ND still needed two more.
In order to win the GWLL and get the automatic conference bid, ND has to hope that Denver falls twice in the League, or hope that Hofstra goes on a long winning streak in order to increase the quality of that win by the Irish. ND hosts the always dangerous, but often inconsistent Air Force Falcons on Sunday