ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The first game of the Ice Breaker Cup was definitely a shootout.
Defenseman Garrett Stafford’s goal on the 13th try of a tiebreaking shootout, normally seen in juniors or the Olympics, put the finishing touches on a New Hampshire comeback over North Dakota on Friday.
Under NCAA rules, a 2-2 tie will actually count in the record books, as the shootout only decided which team would advance in the tournament. The Wildcats will face Colgate, a shootout winner over Michigan, in Saturday’s championship game.
Down 2-0 in the second period, New Hampshire scored two unanswered goals to knot the game and send it to overtime. Stafford, a defenseman, was the only player out of 14 to notch a goal in the shootout, which came after a five-minute extra period yielded no scoring.
The first five shooters for New Hampshire — forwards Jim Abbott, Darren Haydar, Colin Hemingway, Lanny Gare and Matt Swain — all failed to put the puck past North Dakota goaltender Karl Goehring. Swain, shooting last, had Goehring beat, but clanked the puck off the post.
North Dakota’s top five didn’t fare any better, and the teams went to sudden death.
“The ice was so bad that the goalie has the advantage,” New Hampshire goaltender Ty Conklin said of the shootout. “It’s not very conducive to deking.”
Stafford answered the challenge, as he faked the backhand and switched to the forehand, spinning Goehring enough to slap it past him. Conklin sealed things up, stopping North Dakota on the final shot.
“It’s something you dream of,” Stafford said of the shootout winner. “I usually only do that after practice. When I do it on Ty, it usually doesn’t go in.”
The Fighting Sioux took an early one-goal lead when North Dakota’s David Hale smacked the puck against the right side boards. Conklin crept out of the crease, thinking it was going left. But instead, the puck hit the partition of the boards and floated into the net.
North Dakota made it 2-0 at the start of the second period when junior forward Brian Lundbohm took a feed from senior Jeff Panzer skating down the right side. Lundbohm deked out Conklin and took it top shelf for his first goal of the season.
New Hampshire responded with its first goal 40 seconds later, as Haydar slapped the puck from the corner toward the net. It deflected off Swain’s stick past Goehring.
North Dakota dominated the first two periods on the stat sheet, outshooting the Wildcats 26-9. Conklin, though, remained strong, much like his 40-save
performance in New Hampshire’s 6-2 victory over North Dakota last season.
“He’s a real solid goaltender,” Lundbohm said of Conklin. “We had a lot of shots in that second period. We could have put the game away, but he stopped them.”
New Hampshire picked things up in the third, showing some increased stamina just one week into the season. The Wildcats knotted the game at two thanks to Haydar, who scored off the rebound with only nine minutes remaining.
Both teams had their chances the rest of the way, battling a little harder than usual this early in the season.
“You’d think it was the (NCAA) Regionals out there,” New Hampshire coach Richard Umile said. “For two good teams a week into the season, there was a pretty good pace.”
Mark Francescutti is sports editor of the Michigan Daily.