Matt Cashore / IrishIllustrated.com

Gophers await in NCAAs

NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Fresh off defeat in the Hockey Eat semifinals, Notre Dame is headed to the NCAA tournament for a fourth time in the last five years. No. 4 overall seed Minnesota awaits in the first round.

NOTRE DAME, Ind. - One of the traditional powers in college hockey awaits Notre Dame next week.

Fresh off a run to the Hockey East semifinals, the Irish drew No. 4 overall seed Minnesota in the Northeast Regional for the NCAA tournament. Cornell and UMass-Lowell, who eliminated Notre Dame in the league tournament and won Hockey East, round out the regional.

Notre Dame and Minnesota meet at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPNU.

“At this point in the season it doesn’t matter who you play,” head coach Jeff Jackson said. “It’s more about you and your game. But we have seen Minnesota for the last four years. We know the quality of team that they are and the skill they bring to the table. They’ve had a great season. I’m sure it’ll be a big challenge.”

Minnesota (23-11-3), winners of the Big Ten regular season title and runners up in the league tournament, is making an all-time best 37th appearance in the NCAA field.

Notre Dame, which went 7-6-2 this season against teams in the postseason, finished fourth in Hockey East this season before advancing to the tournament semifinals. Lowell eliminated the Irish (21-11-5) on Friday with a 5-1 win on its way to the league championship.

“I think guys honestly turned the page pretty quickly on this,” center Jake Evans said. “We’re obviously a little annoyed with the result of Friday but we’re a really resilient team. We’re just going to add that for fuel to the fire for Saturday. We’ve all been talking and we just want to bring something special back to this rink. I think we’re just ready for this next challenge.”

Jackson won’t have to go far in the archives to brush up on its next opponent.

Minnesota has been a regular non-conference opponent over the last four years. Golden Gophers head coach Don Lucia played at Notre Dame. His son, Mario, also played for the Irish before graduating last spring and heading to the professional ranks.

Notre Dame most recently met the Golden Gophers for a series split in 2015.

“They’re very skilled and they play with pace,” Jackson said. “They’re a fast team. They’re a good transition team. They’ve got a lot of weapons. They’re not just a one line team or a two line team. They’ve got three good scoring lines and they’re always deep on defense. The kid in goal has played really well for them this year. He struggled in the first half of the year but he really turned the corner and really came on in the second half. I would expect them to be very balanced top to bottom.”

Jackson is making and eighth NCAA tournament appearance in his tenure at Notre Dame. He led the Irish to the Frozen Four in 2008 and 2011. That second trip to the Frozen Four started with two wins at the Northeast Regional in Manchester.

Notre Dame has since appeared in the NCAA tournament three times (2013, 2014 and 2016), all first round losses. Last year they suffered a 3-2 loss to Michigan in overtime.

“Every year you gain new experiences,” goalie Cal Petersen said. “Even though we lost last year I thought the game we played against Michigan was one of our best of the year. I expect nothing different this year. I think we have guys that will rise to the occasion, especially the guys that have been there last year with the sophomores, juniors and seniors.

“We’re gonna need those guys to lead the way with just having gone through that last year.”


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