MILWAUKEE — Nate Nomeland set three Bank One Badger Hockey Showdown records on Saturday.
He made 60 saves, a tournament record. He stopped 27 shots in the second period, a tournament record. His 79 saves for the two-day event was a tournament record.
Yet he still had to carry his own equipment to the bus.
“No respect,” Nomeland quipped as he swerved his way through the winding hallways of the Bradley Center.
His Princeton team lost the Showdown’s third-place game 5-4 to No. 3 North Dakota, but his feats almost made up for that fact.
He said he never really got tired. His play seemed to back that up, as he made some of his best saves in the third period.
“It was a lot of adrenaline,” he said. “I’ll be sore tomorrow morning for sure.”
If Princeton had won the game, Nomeland’s performance would have gone down among the stuff of legends. Still, for a guy from Fargo, N.D., to put on such a show against the high-powered offense from his home state was enough about which to write home.
“It was pretty easy for him to get up for this game,” Princeton coach Len Quesnelle said.
With the shot charts looking more like an ink-blot test than an indication of who took a shot and from where (North Dakota attempted 25 shots from the high-quality area in front of the net in the second period alone), the Sioux dominated territorially, if not on the scoreboard.
“You look at where the shots were taken from, and they were all Grade-A opportunities,” Quesnelle said. “Wisconsin’s shots [Friday] night were spread out throughout the zone, and tonight North Dakota had plenty of chances in tight.”
It’s not like Nomeland didn’t have help, though. The Sioux put shots off the goalpost three times in the first period, and during a stretch early in the second period, three shots got behind the goaltender, only to be cleared from the crease by either Tigers defenders or Nomeland himself.
“Standing behind the bench, you start to get a little bit worried because a break or a lapse defensively and all of a sudden the puck is in your net and the momentum changes drastically,” said Dave Hakstol, a North Dakota assistant who’s filling in for head coach Dean Blais, who left Milwaukee on Friday morning to be with his daughter at a hospital in Rochester, Minn.
Said Sioux goaltender Andy Kollar: “It’s fun to watch but I wish we could have gotten a few more goals, make it a bigger lead.”
While everyone was thinking about records and Nomeland’s performance, the Tigers made the game close in the last minute.
Trailing 5-3, Princeton top-line center Kirk Lamb beat Kollar (32 saves) with a shot from the middle of the zone to cut the lead to one with 30.8 seconds left.
The goal came on Princeton’s 36th shot of the game. North Dakota had reached that point by the 10:43 mark of the second.
“It got to be a little bit frustrating, but the main thing is we gave up a couple of goals we maybe shouldn’t have because we started pressing a little bit because it was all offense the whole time,” said North Dakota top-line winger Bryan Lundbohm, who had two assists. “You have to give that goalie a lot of credit.”
The Sioux were forced to play catch-up after Princeton took the lead just 3:54 into the game. Defenseman Matt Maglione picked up a loose puck in the right side of the zone and while David Del Monte screened a North Dakota defenseman, he charged to the net and wristed the puck under the right arm of Kollar.
The Sioux knotted the score, though, at 7:01 when the Tigers defense couldn’t prevent Adrian Hasbargen’s charge at a loose rebound. Lundbohm redirected Travis Roche’s shot from the right point and Hasbargen beat a defender to the puck and put it past Nomeland.
And they kept the pressure in the second period. And then some.
The Sioux put 30 shots on goal in the second period, to give them a 51-27 advantage after 40 minutes. Their 30th shot of the game came with 15:30 left in the second and they reached the half-century mark with 1:07 remaining.
Shots 35 and 36 were particularly key for North Dakota, as they, sandwiched around a Princeton score, gave the Sioux a pair of one-goal leads.
At 8:17 of the period, the Sioux were finally able to capitalize on a Nomeland rebound as Jeff Panzer tapped the puck just over the goal line on a play that was confirmed by video replay.
After Scott Prime evened the game 48 seconds later for the Tigers on a three-on-one rush, Sioux defenseman Chad Mazurak took a drop pass from Panzer on a three-on-two break and wristed it low past Nomeland.
Tim Skarperud gave the Sioux their first two-goal lead of the game at 13:02 of the second, picking up a loose puck off a left-circle faceoff and working it under Nomeland’s outstretched arm on the ice.
Princeton’s Shane Campbell managed to cut the lead to one midway through the third, but Kevin Spiewak answered less than two minutes later to restore the two-goal advantage.
Aside from a few blemishes, though, it was Nomeland’s night.
“This game certainly wasn’t a classic defensively,” Hakstol said.
Except, maybe, for Nomeland.