NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Gophers hockey fans will be talking about the end of Saturday’s 2-1 overtime loss to Notre Dame in the Big Ten semifinals for a long time.
Those conversations will revolve around a questionable hooking call on captain Tyler Sheehy 31 seconds into the extra period that led to forward Michael Graham’s power-play goal.
Graham’s goal sent the near-capacity crowd at Compton Family Ice Arena into a frenzy and the Fighting Irish off to defend their conference playoff championship against the winner of Sunday’s Penn State-Ohio State semifinal in Columbus.
It also squelched the Gophers’ hope of earning the league’s automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.
“That was an absolute travesty the way that game ended,” Gopher coach Bob Motzko said.
After speaking with reporters, Motzko and Big Ten coordinator of men’s ice hockey officials Steve Piotrowski had a heated exchange outside of the team locker room.
Sheehy appeared to lift the stick of Notre Dame forward Colin Theisen cleanly as the two battled for a loose puck in the neutral zone. Theisen fell, the referee’s arm went up, and 22 seconds later Graham, an Eden Prairie native, wheeled around to the right of goalie Mat Robson and fired a feed from teammate Andrew Peeke over the netminder’s blocker for his 12th goal of the season.
“I haven’t seen a call that bad in a long time, especially in a game like that,” Sheehy said. “They put their whistles away for most of the third period. Obviously, a terrible call there in overtime.”
That the Gophers (18-16-4 overall) even had a chance to win in overtime was remarkable given how Notre Dame (21-13-3 overall) controlled the first period. Despite being outshot 17-5, the Gophers and Irish were tied at 1-all thanks to Robson’s heroics and a goal on a fortunate carom off the skate of Gophers freshman forward Sampo Ranta.
“We didn’t have a fantastic start,” Sheehy said. “We were looking to have a better period than that. [Robson] kept us in it 100 percent.”
The Fighting Irish took a 1-0 lead two minutes into the game on a goal by forward Cam Morrison.
The Gophers went into this game on a 7-1 roll.
“We became a very good hockey team,” Motzko said. “We should still be on the ice playing and fighting to the end because our guys were fighting tonight.”