Cannizzaro’s last-second heroics lift Denver over Notre Dame in instant classic

Photo courtesy DU Athletics

Denver-Notre Dame. It’s never a straightforward 10-7 game when these two teams meet. It always comes down to the final seconds and, recently, it’s always taken overtime. It seemed like that was going to happen again today as it was tied 10-10 in the waning seconds of the game, but the #5 University of Denver Pioneers’ Connor Cannizzaro had a different idea as he scored with the clock reading 0:00.

“Notre Dame and Denver,” DU head coach Bill Tierney said laughing. “It is what it is. Those guys were fantastic and it was all we thought it was going to be. Had there been 15 seconds left, [Cannizzaro] might not have scored that goal. The urgency might not have been there.”

“We drew up a play,” Cannizzaro added. “When that didn’t pan out like we wanted it to at the end of the game, I saw E-Walk (Ethan Walker) get the ball and I was just calling for it. It was kind of funny. I dropped it and I knew there was three or four seconds left and I was going to try to get a shot off and it worked out in the end.”

It wasn’t just Cannizzaro that made the difference for the Pioneers, though. This was about as good a full team effort as the Pios have seen all year. Five different players had two goals and six total scored. Alex Ready made 9 important saves and the defense played extraordinarily well in front of him.

“We knew it was going to be a battle as it always is with Notre Dame,” Trevor Baptiste said. “It was just kind of taking the blows and going right back at it.”

As great as the game was for DU, it wasn’t perfect. They turned the ball over 13 times, many of which came just after many of Trevor Baptiste’s 19 faceoff wins. If it wasn’t for all the turnovers, Denver may not have needed Cannizzaro’s last-second heroics. But don’t tell that to Coach Tierney…

“You’re talking about 19-year-old kids,” Tierney said. “They’re under a lot of pressure with 3,000 people playing the #1 team in the country. They’re gonna make mistakes. We don’t dwell on that stuff. We dwell on the positives of 14-of-16 clears, 19-of-24 faceoffs, if I had to start dwelling on turnovers or mistakes that young men make, I’d be nuttier than I already am.”

After the loss to North Carolina last weekend, this game against Notre Dame felt like a must-win game. It wasn’t, but it still had that feeling about it. This matchup closed out a six-game homestand to start the season for the Pioneers and there is a big difference between going 5-1 and 4-2 to start the year.

This game will add another chapter to an already storied if a bit young rivalry between the two most successful men’s lacrosse programs “out west.” They didn’t need overtime today, but that doesn’t take away from this instant classic between the Pios and the Irish.

Both teams played incredible lacrosse at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium today. It was college lacrosse at its highest level. The fans were into it, the players were into it, and it had everything any fan could have asked for and then some. Denver just happened to have the ball last and scored one more goal than Notre Dame. It will go down as another great game between these two, but don’t be surprised if there is another one at the end of May.