They had an army. We had a Jimmy. And for most of Tuesday afternoon's game at Uihlein Park, Marquette hung in against Notre Dame and gave their ranked opponent a better fight than the final 12-7 score indicated.
The first quarter of the match was a defensive duel with Jimmy Danaher making three saves (he finished the match with nine) while the Golden Eagles defense forced the Irish to settle for bad shots. Kyle Whitlow broke through for Marquette giving the Golden Eagles a lead which they held until the last minute when Notre Dame finally got past Danaher to tie it up. The Irish put up three unanswered goals in the second quarter, but Blaine Fleming scored for the Golden Eagles with twenty seconds left in the half as if to let the opponent know that Marquette would not go quietly into the night.
And fight back they did. Goals by Whitlow and Ryan McNamara within two minutes of play resuming out of the halftime break had Marquette even with Notre Dame again. Unfortunately, the Irish scored the next two goals. The teams traded goals until a last second score by Notre Dame in the quarter gave the visitors a 9-6 lead. Conor Gately scored Marquette's final goal of the match early in the fourth and the score stayed stuck at 9-7 until the closing minutes when things got ugly very quickly: the Irish scored thrice in the final four minutes ending the chance of another Golden Eagles comeback.
The Irish only took two more shots the Golden Eagles (36-34), but nearly double of theirs (21-12) were on goal. Marquette's offense surely missed leading scorer Tyler Melnyk, who is day to day with a hand injury and did not dress for the game. On the other end, the defense was key to keeping the score close in the first quarter, but later penalties on the Golden Eagles hurt a lot: four of Notre Dame's goals in the second and third quarters came while the Irish had a one man advantage.
STAT WATCH: While the EMO goals clearly broke Notre Dame away from Marquette in the middle section of the game, the Golden Eagles didn't do themselves any favors in the ball possession category, either. They had 14 turnovers in the game, which is a little on the high side of things for Marquette this season. Nine of those were unforced turnovers, and with just 24 offensive chances in the game, that's a rate of 37.5 unforced errors per 100 offensive tries. Last year, Marquette was one of the worst teams in the country at turning the ball over willy-nilly, and then they only had a rate of 27.5 per 100 chances. Surprising, isn't it? That's how good the defense was against Notre Dame: it didn't even seem like things were that bad with the ball.
On the face off side of things, Paul Riportella started the game taking face offs for MU, but he went 1-6 before being replaced by KC Kennedy. Kennedy was much more successful, winning more than half of his match ups, going 9-16. All told, that's 10 wins out of 22 face offs, for a success rate of 45%. Last year, Marquette only won 42.9% of their face offs, and when you factor in a top 10 team on the other side of the ball, that's a pretty good outing for the blue and gold.
Up Next: Providence at Hart Park on Saturday April 12 at noon. The Friars are 3-9 on the season and 0-3 in Big East games. They bring in an eight game losing streak dating back to March 8th.