The Weekend in Stick: Off to the Hub (Part I)

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"The Weekend in Stick": It's exactly what it sounds like -- a recapitulation of this weekend's most notable. No doink.

(Part II is here.)

No time to screw around with introductions you aren't going to read anyway. Here are the four biggest stories from the weekend.

Notre Dame Outlasts Virginia, 12-10; Ryan Foley Sparks Irish Run with Goal-Concussion
It was a game that I couldn't get a feel for throughout the week and it ended up playing out exactly as (un)expected: Notre Dame, behind an inspired run in the fourth quarter, pulled away from Virginia for a big victory and its third trip ever to Championship Weekend:

Virginia and Notre Dame traded blows throughout the game, with the scoreboard reading even five times (three times in the second half). Neither team looked as if it were going to roll through the landscape like a Panzer tank on a mission of destruction until Ryan Foley ripped an unassisted blast past Rob Fortunato with 7:41 remaining in regulation. Foley took a nasty shot from Scott McWilliams on the release and needed to be taken off the field on a stretcher, eventually receiving medical attention at an area hospital. (ESPNU indicated that Foley is expected to be fine.)

Foley's tally proved to be the momentum swing in the game. Following the score, the Irish pulled off a three-goal run to push the Irish's lead out to 12-8 with just 1:36 left to play. Virginia rallied late with Matt White and Steele Stanwick helping each other out with buttons to decrease the Cavaliers' deficit to two, but John Kemp stood strong in the net in the waning seconds, turning away a Ryan Tucker shot from the alley to secure Notre Dame's second trip to the Final Four in the last three seasons.

The victory turns the Irish into an interesting story for the Final Four -- the defense is there, staunch and strong, but will this increasingly competitive offense continue to emerge?

Loyola and Denver Go Shot-for-Shot Until Last Call
The Greyhounds controlled a solid 45 minutes of play, looking like they were going to walk to Gillette Stadium without serious competition from the Pioneers. That wouldn't happen, though, because when you put Loyola and Denver on the same field everything eventually goes plaid:

For most of the game it didn't exactly feel like the two teams would trade deathblows until someone finally bled out at the final buzzer. Loyola strongly dominated much of play throughout the first three quarters, eventually building a 10-6 lead at the 10:29 mark of the final period. Then, because Denver is built like a rodeo bull with an ax to grind because some stupid human severely broke the bull-man code with certain "restrictions" in a sensitive area, the Pioneers snapped: Henry Miketa bulleted a miracle pass to Mark Matthews who snagged the bean, turned, planted, and rifled a shot past Greyhounds goalie Jack Runkel.

It was the spark that Denver had been looking for all afternoon and with the fuse lit, the Pioneers looked like they were going to explode. About a minute after Matthews' bonkers tally, Jeremy Noble got on the board on an assist from Wes Berg to draw Denver within two at 10-8. Five minutes later, Berg bulldogged his way through the Loyola defense to rifle a shot past Runkel to close the margin to one with just under three minutes to play. That goal, however, was as close as Denver would get to Foxborough, Massachusetts.

The ending sequences to the game paint the picture of a madman on a rampage: A dodgy push violation on the Pioneers with under two minutes left in regulation killed a potential momentum-induced offensive possession for Denver; a tough save from Runkel on a Berg shot on the doorstep with 1:09 saved Loyola's goat; a boneheaded shot attempt from Davis Butts on the ensuing possession from the Hounds gave the Pios life with 24 seconds left; and a blocked Cam Flint shot ultimately ended what could have been a charmed run from Denver.

The 'Hounds will face Notre Dame in one of the semifinals on Saturday afternoon. It's their first trip to Championship Weekend in almost 15 years.

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