NCAA West Regional: For Notre Dame seniors, second straight NCAA loss to St. Cloud is "nightmare" end

Matt Christians

Everything comes to an end.

ST. PAUL- There are several ways to shake off a loss. Getting back to work the next day is one. So are putting it behind or remembering it as a motivational tactic. Other ways include seeing defeat as a moral victory, proving to others that you can defy expectations and won't back down.

That's how Robert Morris (as well as those who watched the Colonials in its 7-3 loss to Minnesota) saw its first NCAA Tournament in the program's ten year history. It's not the path Notre Dame took after falling to St. Cloud State 4-3 in overtime. Not even close.

Some of it has to do with the game. Notre Dame, coming into the West Regional having gone 9-2-1 in its last 12 games, was a trendy pick to reach the Frozen Four. ND head coach Jeff Jackson's squad has shown it wouldn't back down. Three times Saturday the Fighting Irish came back from St. Cloud State scoring a goal. Twice it came back from giving up a goal in the final minute.

However, Notre Dame didn't get a chance to come back a fourth time.

"It's not like coach came in and said anything different between periods. Nothing really changed and we didn't implement many changes in our back check," Huskies senior Nic Dowd said about flipping a switch in overtime. "I think something that can't be taught was us playing with a little bit of urgency in the overtime."

Dowd snapped a wrister in the top right corner over senior goaltender Steven Summerhays with less than three minutes remaining in overtime. That was it.

Despite coming back and holding St. Cloud State to 12 shots on goal in regulation and 2 in the third period, Ryan Faragher made a career-high 39 saves a day after having the flu to even things. That includes a pad save on freshman Vince Hinostroza during an overtime breakaway, which meant the Fighting Irish's season was over at the hands of the Huskies for the second straight year.

For 11 seniors, there is no chance for a third.

"I feel bad for them," said Jackson. "They are great kids and I know more than anything they wanted to bring a championship here. I can't speak enough about all of them. They had great careers and are a great group of kids."

Those seniors end a career which has seen a Frozen Four appearance their freshman year in the same rink that it ended, two other NCAA Tournament appearances, the opening of Compton Family Ice Arena and the final CCHA conference tournament championship.

Unfortunately, those aren't comforting after a loss. Instead, Notre Dame is left with a head coach that minutes after the game opened with a statement that had as many words as SCSU shots. Senior captain Jeff Costello summed up his emotions in a monotone voice.

"You stay up at night and have nightmares about it," he said. "Especially being on the ice for the last one, it's something I'm never going to forget.

"Thanks for bringing it up."

That's the toughest part about this time of the year. 53 teams have already gone through and two more will join today. Hundreds of players will go on to play at the next level, but for more seniors this is it. Sometimes there is a loss that can't be shaken off the next day.

There is no last chance to come back.

--

Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation. You can also follow him on Twitter --

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