MANCHESTER, N.H. — Notre Dame all-world goaltender Cal Petersen is known for picking up his team with a big save from time to time.
Saturday, with his Irish trailing Minnesota 2-0 on goals by Connor Reilly and Vinni Lettieri in the NCAA Northeast Regional, the captain once again put his team on his back, but not as you would typically expect.
Petersen caught the Gophers on a line change and fired a 120-foot pass to Andrew Oglevie, which the phenom forward fired under the crossbar to breathe life into a listless Irish team.
That spark led to two Anders Bjork goals, one just 54 seconds later and the game-winner on the power play with 11:18 left, as the Irish rallied to a 3-2 victory.
They advanced to Sunday’s regional final, where they will get a chance at redemption. Notre Dame will face UMass Lowell, which ended its run at a Hockey East title nine days ago with a 5-1 victory.
“It’s not usually his passing that makes the impact on the game,” Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said about his goaltender. “He’s a leader for us and our guys do rally around him, because we do rely on him at times.”
Jackson said the stretch pass is something the team usually practices with Petersen at the morning skate on game days. Because of the early start times on Saturday, Notre Dame declined to have a pregame skate.
“He must have just remembered,” joked Jackson. “It was just a great play by him and finished off by Andrew.”
Sporting life and confidence, it was time for one leader to hand off those duties to another. Bjork, a Hobey Baker Award finalist, certainly made a case for why he deserves votes. Twice he put himself in perfect position to score clutch — and gritty — goals.
“It feels pretty good scoring goals,” said Bjork. “Both times I just happened to be in the right place at the right time and pucks just bounced to me.
“Both times it was great plays by Jake Evans keeping the puck alive and battling. That’s how it is in these games in the tournament. There’s so much skill that you just have to do the dirty things. That’s what our team did tonight.”
Now the Irish has the task in front of them of besting a Lowell team that scored five times in a 5-1 win on St. Patrick’s Day en route to the Hockey East title. And Jackson has a pretty simple message that his team needs to heed if it wants a chance at reaching the Frozen Four.
“We need to show up,” said Jackson, who felt his team struggled mightily for the first period and a half on Saturday and almost all of last Friday’s loss to the River Hawks. “[Last Friday] was kind of a deer in headlights moment for us. Hopefully having gone through that helps us move to the [Frozen Four].”