MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Between this being Notre Dame’s final Hockey East season and the Frozen Four in Chicago looming, it just felt like a script waiting to be written.
In the end Sunday afternoon at SNHU Arena, the Fighting Irish wrote it.
Junior Anders Bjork set up all three goals, and sophomore Andrew Oglevie scored the game-winner 2:44 into overtime to lift the Fighting Irish to their third-ever Frozen Four with a 3-2 win over second-seeded UMass Lowell in the NCAA Northeast Regional title game.
“We’re obviously thrilled to go to our backyard, hosting the Frozen Four. It’s nice we’re going to show up,” Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson said after his team won its 22nd game of the season to advance to its first Frozen Four since 2011. “It was a great game, Lowell’s a tremendous team.
The Irish needed just one shot on goal in overtime to win the game as Bjork ― the Northeast Regional’s Most Outstanding Player, with two goals and three assists on the weekend ― passed the puck off to Oglevie in the slot slot for his 21st goal and third game-winner of the season.
Freshman Cam Morrison scored the first two Irish goals, becoming the sixth Notre Dame player to reach the 10-goal mark this season.
The three assists set a career-high for Bjork, who had two in a game 14 different times over his career. Bjork enters the Frozen Four with points in four of his last five games, while Oglevie’s goal total for the season is already more than four times his freshman year total.
Of course, Notre Dame’s two offensive stars will have trouble ever matching this connection again.
“I remember Anders had the puck on his stick, and I was just standing in the slot and I hoped he’d pass it,” Oglevie said of the winning goal. “He did and I just hit it as hard as I could and luckily for us it went in.”
“I remember getting the puck and I know (Oglevie) was open for about 15 seconds there, it felt like,” Bjork said. “I finally gave it to him and he put it in like he always seems to do. I’m just glad that he was in the right spot.”
Conceding the first goal is a rarity for Lowell as it conceded the first goal in the most crucial of games to this point, allowing Notre Dame freshman Cam Morrison to break ahead of the defense and will his own rebound past goaltender Tyler Wall at the 11:49 marker. Junior Anders Bjork picked off a puck, feeding Morrison for the drive ahead.
Momentum did shift in the first period’s late stages as Lowell junior Ryan Collins leveled the score with 1:02 to play, following freshman Ryan Lohin’s shot after winning the draw in the circle to Notre Dame goaltender Cal Petersen’s right.
It was not the ideal start for head coach Norm Bazin’s club, and it cost. Lowell, the Hockey East champion for the third time in five years, finishes its season at 27-11-3.
“I thought we passed up on a few shots early in the game,” Bazin said. “We tried to get way too cute and that came back to bite us. We need to put some more shots on net and even around the net to capitalize.”
A majority of the crowd did come to life as junior John Edwardh’s 19th goal of the season gave Lowell its first lead of the game at the 11:38 mark, putting a brilliant tip on classmate Tommy Panico’s shot from above the left wing circle over Petersen’s shoulder.
However, the Irish would not say die, tying the game at 14:43. Wall saved Bjork’s initial shot from close range, but Morrison surged down the slot to score his 11th goal of the season and second of the game on a backhander from between the circles.
Lowell is a team that had Notre Dame’s number during their brief history in the conference, having won nine of the 13 meetings, including a 5-1 game in the Hockey East semifinals at TD Garden last Friday.
That was a bump in the road for the Irish, but lessons were learned and improvement was made.
“I think that playing them (last Friday) helped us tonight, knowing the way we have to play,” Jackson said. “Starting midway through the second period last night, I think people got a chance to see the team I’ve been watching over the last eight weeks.”
Revenge can sure be sweet.
“The guys in the locker room have really stepped up in crucial moments and for us to get rewarded like this, going to Chicago,” said Petersen, who made 27 saves, including 10 in the first period. “Being an underdog is something really special. I know regardless of however it goes I think this is going to be a special memory for everybody.”