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When: April 7th
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Listen: 94.3 FM or UND.com
Notre Dame will play Minnesota Duluth at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night for the chance to bring home a National Championship to South Bend.
Captain Jake Evans put the Irish in the title game with a goal with 5.2 seconds left on Thursday night, and it continued Notre Dame’s run of buzzer beaters in big moments.
“We’re giving them a run for their money right now,” stated junior forward Dylan Malmquist. “They did it in both the Final Four and the championship game. And I know most of the guys on our team were watching. That was unbelievable just to see them be able to do that and pull out a championship for this university and to have a moment like that that was our own, that was a really cool experience.”
Malmquist and senior forward Bo Brauer are both from Edina (Minn.) and are in a similar situation as women’s hoops standout Kathryn Westbeld as they will have a shot to win a title in their home state.
“That’s going to be a very cool atmosphere and very cool experience for all of us especially the Minnesota guys,” Malmquist stated. “I mean, just playing in the X (Xcel Energy Center) alone, in the Frozen Four, is very cool as it is. But to play a Minnesota team and most likely have most of the crowd rooting against you, that’s something we’ve experienced before, and it’s very fun.”
Brauer compared the opportunity to one he had in high school.
“We think back to five years ago when we won it with Edina in the semifinals, we played against Duluth East,” said Brauer. “It kind of reminds me about that playing — a lot of those guys on the UMD team are from northern Minnesota. It’s just a really special opportunity to come together with the Irish, and hopefully, we can really do something sweet on Saturday night.”
While the homecoming will be a special moment, Brauer will use his disappointment from a year ago to help push his team over the hump.
“We came into it probably being a little more satisfied than we should have in that we were stunned beating UMass Lowell in overtime,” recalled Brauer. “I think not having as much experience under the bright lights last year hurt us. “Taking that as motivation to get us back to here really has helped us. And, again, being calm and just staying positive throughout, it has really helped us.”
Head coach Jeff Jackson would prefer his team to not give Notre Dame fans and himself anxiety in the final minutes of the game, but he knows his team will remain calm no matter the situation on Saturday night.
“You can never predict what’s going to happen,” Jackson explained. “These situations — there’s been some luck to it as well. I think back to the Michigan Tech game where the puck almost rolled into our net right before we scored the game-winner in overtime. It’s almost like it’s meant to be. But you can’t rely on that.
“We can’t go into the game thinking we’re going to score the goal at the last minute. Rather have won that game with a one-goal lead in the third and not have to go through that. But these kids have found a way to get it done. And I’m not going to argue with that. They find a way. They’re very calm.”
Jackson has even gained peace of mind in the final moments of games because his team doesn’t panic.
“Their calmness has probably impacted me in being more calm, when we give up a lead or when we get behind, they’re just very calm in how they handle it,” stated Jackson. “The locker room, on the bench. I hear them: We got this. We got this. We’re all right. We’re all right. It’s rare in today’s game to have seniors especially seniors that are quality players. So when you do get them, you have to embrace them and let them lead your team.
“Even guys like Bo that may not play a ton of minutes, he’s an inspirational leader for us. Goes back to what I was talking about with Minnesota kids, he’s just a character kid. They find a way and a lot of it has to do with their attitude and their maturity, having been through so many different scenarios since they’ve been here.”
When it comes to Minnesota Duluth, Jackson wasn’t giving away any secrets to how he wants to stop the Bulldogs.
“I know how they play the game,” stated Jackson. “They play the game the right way. They play a fast game. They play transitionally. They have their depths. You’re right, they’re spread out like we are as far as their offensive depth. But they’ve got some talented young defensemen and their goaltending is solidified which probably helped push them over the top to get to this point. So I’m not sure how much difference — I mean, both teams have pretty good special teams.
“Last night I think it was a bit of an anomaly with us on faceoffs, but they seem to be a good faceoff team that we have to be stronger on the dot in order to have possession of the puck. So I don’t see a ton of differences in a lot of ways. But I guess we’ll find out.Subscribe Now