PHILADELPHIA - Immediately after scoring the goal that put Denver in the championship game for the first time in school history, Wesley Berg tossed his stick aside. If it had burst into flames, no one would've been surprised. It was a magic wand all day and probably was too hot to handle.
Berg scored his 53rd goal of the season on a blast from the left wing, off a feed from Tyler Pace, 1:57 into overtime Saturday as fourth-seeded Denver ousted top-seeded Notre Dame, 11-10, in the opener of an NCAA men's lacrosse semifinal doubleheader before a crowd of 29,123 on a sun-splashed afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the NFL's Eagles. Denver will face Maryland in the title game at 1 p.m. Monday.
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"It was a huge relief scoring and I was thankful the game was over," said Berg, a British Columbia native who scored three goals. "When you're up by that much, you're watching the clock and you're counting down the seconds."
A remarkable goal by Berg gave Denver (16-2) a 10-6 lead with 4:23 left in the fourth quarter. But Sergio Perkovic scored three times after that, giving him five straight Notre Dame goals, and Nick Ossello scored with nine seconds left to tie it at 10.
Berg gave Denver that seemingly safe 10-6 lead on a play so spectacular, it likely will be shown as a TV highlight all Memorial Day weekend, and perhaps for years to come among lacrosse loyalists.
Berg flipped a no-look, behind-the-shoulder bouncer that went between goalie Shane Doss' legs into the net. At the time, it looked like it was just a little Showtime magic. Turns out, it was an accidental -- and ultimately vital -- goal.
"I lost my balance there and it was kind of a scramble," Berg said. "I saw the goalie out of position and I just tried to get it on net. I did a reverse backhand between his legs and fortunately it went in."
Perkovic had his own magic wand down the stretch, scoring three straight to make it 10-9 with 2:03 left. Then Ossello made a nifty dodge and went top shelf to tie it with nine seconds left.
The Irish got the first possession in overtime, but Matt Kavanagh (Rockville Centre, Chaminade) -- Notre Dame's leading scorer and a Tewaaraton finalist as a junior -- turned it over and Denver eventually capitalized. Kavanagh, fighting injuries since March, managed only one assist.
"Matt Kavanagh has won a bunch of games for us in exactly that kind of situation," Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan said. "It's easy to take a snapshot and say with hindsight, would you want a timeout? Of course, the ball got taken away. Kav is probably 12 and 1 in that situation. So I'll take Kav."
Denver coach Bill Tierney, the Levittown native who won six national titles with Princeton and has taken Denver to four Final Fours in the last five years, will take Berg.
"We knew if we got it into Wesley's hands, there was a good chance that it was going to be a good shot," he said.
It wasn't a trick shot, but Berg had the magic touch at the end.