NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Single elimination playoff hockey awaits No. 12 Notre Dame next week and likely beyond.
Four goals in the third period lifted the Irish to a 5-2 win Saturday over No. 10 Providence and a sweep in the best-of-three series, clinching a spot in the Hockey East semifinals next week. Bobby Nardella scored the eventual game winner then Dylan Malmquist added a pair of empty net goals late to salt away the victory.
Goalie Cal Petersen made 28 saves for Notre Dame, which last made the league tournament semifinals in 2014.
“It’s awesome,” Nardella said. “We knew it was gonna be a tough weekend. They’re a good team. They play really hard all the time. We just kinda had to stick to our system, stick to what we practiced. It’s a really good feeling right now.”
Downing the Friars also helped the postseason resume.
Notre Dame (21-10-5) entered Saturday in a tie for 10th with Providence and North Dakota in the PairWise rankings, which essentially determines the 16-team NCAA tournament field. After another win, the Irish are ninth in those rankings.
“That’s down the road,” said head coach Jeff Jackson. “The most important thing is we had probably the toughest job in the country this weekend as far as the playoff round, playing one of the hottest teams in the country. But we’ve been pretty hot here in the last eight weeks ourselves. It’s a credit to these guys for doing the things they had to do to be successful.
“I knew it was gonna be tougher and it was. It was a physical game, a lot of stuff going on after the whistle and things like that. Our guys I thought did a pretty good job of holding their emotional control.”
After a scoreless first period, Providence (22-11-5) took a lead at 10:48 of the second on a Brian Pinho goal. Pinho redirected the puck right in front of Petersen.
Cam Morrison answered about two minutes later with a power-play goal to pull Notre Dame level at 1-1, finishing off a textbook passing sequence. Anders Bjork passed to Jake Evans, who centered to Morrison for a tap in. Bjork finished with two assists.
Jordan Gross broke the tie with his 10th goal of the season 21 seconds into the third period. Nardella followed with his goal at 7:29, putting the Irish up 3-1 after sustained pressure.
“That was a great shift,” Jackson said. “Some of the credit goes to Evans for getting off the ice early when he was tired and (Andrew) Oglevie getting on the ice. That’s just unselfish play. That was definitely a great shift.”
Pinho scored again at 11:18 of the third to pull the Friars within a goal. But as the third period wore on the Irish asserted control.
Providence played most of the game down two players after separate incidents. Winger Garrett Gamez went down on the bench late in the first period, causing his teammates to frantically call for help. Trainers helped Gamez to the locker room. They later transported Gamez to the hospital for more evaluation.
“I’ve never been part of that before,” Providence coach Nate Leaman said. “Garrett’s a great kid and a great teammate. I think a lot of guys were concerned. We just tried to refocus between periods. It’s tough. He’s cared about a lot in the locker room.”
Defenseman Josh Monk also departed the game, leaving Leaman without two top skaters.
Notre Dame outshot the Friars in the third period 15-9 and eventually broke the game open with a pair of empty net goals by Dylan Malmquist. Oglevie had a hand in both, finishing with three assists on the night.
“We talked about that a little bit after the game,” Nardella said. “We owe a lot to our strength and conditioning coach, Tony Rolinski. If it looked like we were the more conditioned team then it’s all on him for pushing us to work hard.”