Third-seeded Duke scored 40 seconds into overtime, capping a four-goal comeback to eliminate second-seeded Notre Dame 10-9 in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament semifinals Friday night in northern Atlanta. Leading at halftime 3-1 and after three quarters 8-6, the Irish were outscored 3-1 in the fourth quarter to square the game at 9-9. With a championship date with Syracuse at stake, the Irish and Blue Devils battled the final 7:37 of the fourth quarter without a goal. The Irish will finish their regular season at home versus Army next Sunday.
The weekend began with Irish Nation descending upon Kennesaw State University, 45 minutes north of Atlanta, late Friday afternoon. Arriving before Atlanta rush hour was a victory. Tailgates were sectioned off in the parking lot of Fifth Third Bank Stadium for fans from Syracuse, Carolina, Duke and Notre Dame.
Few tailgate with scope of the Irish. The Notre Dame Club of Atlanta made sure, with a corner location, southern cooking and plenty of spirits. Fans of Rockne, Rudy, hoops and lacrosse all attended, well-garbed in Irish attire. Game temperature for the 8:30 faceoff was a humid 75 degrees. A crowd of 3100 understood the stakes were high, the lights were bright.
The Irish began the season at this venue, defeating Georgetown 12-7. We’ve experienced Hollywood Hills, three overtimes in Arlotta, a comeback in Columbus, Dinosaur Barbecue in Syracuse, snow at The Holy Half and brisket in Carolina since then. ESPNU had ND lacrosse alum Eamon McAnaney and friends on hand to broadcast the game to the nation. ND was looking to rebound from the Carolina setback and position for The NCAA Tournament.
Friday night drama would begin as it would end, with Irish goalie Shane Doss standing tall. Doss entered the contest ranked among the top five goalies in save percentages nationally. His early stop on Player of-the-Year Candidate Myles Jones down low would set the tone. A second save on a short hop and a third save up high confirmed Doss was dialed in. Early transition efforts by the Irish were covered by Duke, with the game evolving into a slowed down, half-field chess match. A rarity, ND had the shot clock turned on in the first quarter, encouraging them to shoot in the next 30 seconds. Sergio Perkovic obliged, unleashing a bullet that was stopped down low, but the rebound popped up for grabs at the crease. As Duke defenders watched, Mikey Wynne seized, faking and shooting to give the Irish an opportune 1-0 lead with four minutes played.
Subsequent turnovers slowed the offense, while Doss registered five saves in the quarter. Eddy Glazener, Matt Landis, Garrett Epple, Jack Sheridan, Bobby Collins, John Sexton and Hugh Crance hustled to limit Duke to seven shots. Drew Schantz and Austin Gaiss led the transition, with the Irish 5/5 in clears. The second quarter reflected more of the same, with both teams intent on competing in a half-field game of execution.
With 9:29 remaining, Coach Corrigan inserted a new attack unit of Eddy Lubowicki, Anthony Marini and Carl Walrath. Fresh legs prevailed. Marini’s dodge attracted two defenders. He found Perkovic, who moved to his left, sliding into the seam and firing high to low, just inside the near post to put the Irish up 2-1. Six minutes later, team assist leader Matt Kavanagh would go to the net, drawing Duke’s attention. Somehow, he saw Ryder Garnsey and threaded a pass through the crease. The freshman caught, then walked a tight rope on the crease, launching himself horizontal before shooting to put the Irish up 3-1. The half ended with Duke earning all six faceoff wins, yet Doss was not forced to make a second quarter save. Shots, ground balls and turnovers were even. Credit the character of this team. After surrendering eight fourth quarter goals in the Carolina game a week ago, the Irish bounced back to limit an equally talented Duke offense to one goal in the first half. They average 14 per game.
The first half chess match that included four goals would intensify in the third quarter. Each team scored five times. ND struck first on an unassisted classic by Perkovic. Catching up top, he rolled to his left to beat one defender, then spun right to shake two more. He headed left to the net and shot short side high before the Duke goalie could set, putting ND up 4-1 barely a minute into the third. Duke would counter a minute later, drawing within 4-2 before Perkovic would strike again 47 seconds later. He bounced a bullet far side for his third of the game. It took 29 minutes for the game’s first three goals. It took three minutes for three goals in the second half. Mikey Wynne gave ND their first four-goal lead, going high far side while the Irish were a man up. Credit Matt Kavanagh with another pin point pass. Momentum and the game’s largest lead was diffused when Duke struck twice in the next three minutes to pull within 6-4. Parent nation exhaled when Trevor Brosco found space in the Duke defense to thread a pass to Matt Kavanagh heading to the crease. Kav caught, swirled and fired falling away. Ryder Garnsey then muscled a side arm shot from a tough angle to restore the four-goal lead, 8-4 with 4:01 left.
Duke got one back a minute later and a second with 0:11 seconds remaining on a shot Doss probably didn’t see. Possessions were becoming precious, with each team scoring five times. Duke gaining possessions by winning 7/11 faceoffs, while the Irish earned the ball by forcing six turnovers. The teams returned to methodical six on six in the fourth quarter, realizing the stakes at hand. Duke would strike first, just a minute into the fourth, bringing the Blue Devils within one at 8-7. A costly penalty opened the door. Ryder Garnsey’s third goal of the game pushed the lead back to two with 13 minutes remaining. With two defenders draped on him, Garnsey somehow got his hands free to flick a winner far post. A big-time play by the freshman. The tension now exceeded the humidity. A second man up goal by Duke cut the lead to one, 9-8. With Duke on a roll with faceoffs, they secured possession again. This time, All American Myles Jones scored, muscling a bounce shot far post to tie the score at 9-9. The game’s active points leader, it was Jones’ first point of the day, but not his last. Both teams had opportunities in the final 7:37, but neither scored. Exceptional plays came from Timmy Phillips, Garrett Epple, Shane Doss and Bobby Collins.
After Doss took a point blank shot on the face mask with 42 seconds remaining, Collins was tasked with shutting down Jones. He obliged, with Schantz hustling to secure an Irish possession. With time expiring, Matt Kavanagh’s desperation shot was blocked and into overtime we went for the fourth time this year. An illegal procedure violation after the face off, gave Duke the ball. Jones took a pass up top, moving to his right, attracted Irish eyes and a quick slide. Leading scorer Justin Guterding moved into the open space and Jones fed him with a short pass. A spin and a leap, were followed by quick shot that ended the game just 40 seconds into sudden death. With a 10-9 win, Duke (10-6) advanced to Championship Sunday to play a Syracuse (9-4) team they defeated at home in March, 16-15. In a soggy Sunday title game, a Syracuse team the Irish defeated in the Carrier Dome by 10 goals a month ago, defeated Duke 14-8 to claim the 2016 ACC Championship. The Orange scored five straight after three hours of lightening and downpours. Notre Dame (9-3) will now host Army (10-6) this Sunday in the senior’s final regular season game. Army lost Sunday to Loyola (12-3) in the Patriot League Championship. Sunday’s game at Arlotta Stadium begins at noon. Go Irish!
All of the highlights from Friday’s game can be seen via the link below.