Notre Dame outlasts Loyola in fourth quarter

No. 4 Notre Dame 11, No. 10 Loyola 9

Big game by Greyhounds' Finnerty overshadowed by Fighting Irish win

March 06, 2010|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | kevin.vanvalkenburg@baltsun.com

The Loyola Greyhounds did so many things right Saturday against Notre Dame in the Face-Off Classic. They took away easy scoring opportunities from the Fighting Irish, they forced them to shoot with a weak hand more often than not, they counter-punched when Notre Dame had all the momentum, and they frustrated and hounded midfielder Zach Brenneman, one of the best players in the country.

But superior talent has a habit of wiping away both the sins and the sloppy play of the victor, and that's exactly what happened at M&T Bank Stadium.

The No. 4 Fighting Irish exerted their will in key moments -- scoring two huge goals in the fourth quarter to spoil a spirited effort by the No. 10 Greyhounds -- and escaped with a 11-9 victory.

It was another classic clash between the two schools -- there were eight ties and five lead changes -- but that was almost to be expected. The two programs always seem to keep it close when they get together. Since 2002, the Irish and Greyhounds have faced one another seven times, and every game before Saturday's had been decided by a single goal. The only reason this one didn't end in a similar fashion was that Notre Dame's David Earl iced it by scoring a goal with 48 seconds left.

"We battled," said Loyola coach Charlie Toomey. "We knew we were going to be limited in our opportunities, but I thought we stepped up and buried our shots. It put us in a position to win the game. I think that's all you can ask."

Toomey couldn't help but feel pretty good about the effort his team gave. In fact, if you didn't know any better, you'd have had a difficult time figuring out which team won just by studying their faces in the postgame news conference.

Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan wasn't exactly in the mood for handing out praise.

"We did not play well," Corrigan said. "We were bad today. Our execution was bad. I don't think that analysis will change after I watch the film. But some days you're not at your best, and you hope you have guys who play hard [and] make a few plays. I thought we made a few plays today. You're living dangerously if you're counting on that keeping yourself in the game, but the best thing I thought our guys did today was compete."

Brenneman made more than a few big plays. The junior Tewaaraton Trophy candidate scored three times, including two in the second half, and neither of those goals came easily. With the game tied at 6 midway through the third period, Brenneman had two defenders riding him to his left, and in a flash, he pivoted the other direction, breaking free for a split second. From 15 yards out, he fired a shot past Greyhounds goalie Jake Hagelin.

"We figured out in the second half they were tending to slide to our strong hand," Brenneman said. "So when they took our strong hand, they'd slide a lot faster, but when it was our weak hand, they wouldn't go. So we tried to figure that out."

Brenneman did it again in the closing seconds of the third quarter, this time with his team trailing 8-7. He backed down two defenders, almost like a power forward jostling for position in the paint, then spun to the middle and found the back of the net.

"I call that the butt move," Brenneman said. "I just roll to the middle. I'm not sure how else to say it."

Said Corrigan: "I don't think Zach Brenneman had a great day, but Zach scored three goals and that's a good day for anybody."

Brenneman overshadowed a great effort from Loyola's Collin Finnerty, who scored three times and looked like the best player on the field for a long stretch in the middle of the game. The 6-foot-4 Finnerty, who was coming off a five-goal game against Bellarmine, has such long arms and such fluid moves that he's almost impossible to shut down. Notre Dame limited his chances at the start of the game, but the senior attackman eventually found a variety of ways to score: in transition, from behind the net, and with two defenders drapped all over him.

"I was trying to let the game come to me," Finnerty said. "We were trying not to push it too much, just control the ball and see the whole field. I didn't get many looks in the first half. I think I had one shot in the first quarter. But in the second half I started to get some looks and was fortunate enough to finish them."

Late in the game, Loyola seemed like it could smell the upset, and that may have been their undoing.

With a man advantage, junior attackman Eric Lusby scored his third goal of the game on an assist from Matt Langan, and with 12:04 remaining in the game, the score was tied at 9. But Loyola committed four penalties the rest of the way, turned it over seven times, and spent much of the fourth quarter on its heels.

Notre Dame's Colin Igoe scored on a fast break to make it 10-9 with 9:26 remaining, and the Greyhounds started to looked tight as the clock ticked down. They somehow survived being down two defenders at one point, but when they had possession, they couldn't muster a good look at Notre Dame goalie Scott Rodgers. Rodgers, who finished with 11 saves, is regarded as the top goalie in the country. He has yet to give up 10 goals in a single game in his career.

"We talked about trying to compose ourselves and enjoy this environment," Toomey said. "And maybe there was a few broken clears we wish we had back. But I thought for 60 minutes we competed and battle. I think we'll watch that game tape, lick our wounds, and start getting ready for Duke."

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