WORCESTER, Mass. — After the Black Bears reclaimed life with a late regulation goal, Maine’s Robert Liscak scored at 13:04 of the first overtime to end the 16th-longest game in NCAA tournament history and one of the longest nights in tournament history, as the fifth-seeded Black Bears knocked off number-four seed Minnesota, 5-4.
After Minnesota goaltender Adam Hauser mishandled the rebound of Todd Jackson’s shot, Liscak — who nearly was the goat, missing two key chances to tie the game near the end of regulation — fired a tight-angle shot off the far post and into the net for the game-winner.
“I guess I had the tying goal on my stick [in regulation] but I missed the net,” said Liscak, who seconds after that bid fell down as another chance arrived.
“The winning goal, Todd Jackson just shot it toward the net and we were at the end of a shift. I was pressuring the puck because we wanted the faceoff in our [offensive] end. But [Minnesota goalie Adam] Hauser decided to play the puck and played it right onto my stick and I had nothing else to do but shoot it in the net.”
With Maine trailing late in the third period, a power-play goal by sophomore Michael Schutte with 2.7 seconds left in regulation sent the game to overtime. Schutte received the puck after Martin Kariya corralled the rebound of Niko Dimitrakos’ shot and fed the wide-open winger at the right post.
“The puck got right to the front of the net and we had a lot of chances late [in regulation],” said Schutte. “Marty [Kariya] got the goaltender down and out and he just fed it over to me at the far post and I put it in the open net.
“Kariya made just a great play — unselfish,” said Maine coach Shawn Walsh. “[Defensemen Francis] Nault, then Niko and then Kariya — none of them panicked with the puck inside the last 10 seconds [of regulation].”
Walsh was quick to point out that the life-support that his team felt on Friday really was nothing new.
“Our guys have faced adversity all year,” said Walsh. “This is the fourth time we’ve come from behind in third period tie a game and then win it in the overtime. You could’ve put us on life support in early February. This team is starting to look like a team of destiny.”
It was the second consecutive game at Friday’s regional to need overtime to determine the winner. Colorado College defeated St. Lawrence, 3-2 in double overtime in the evening’s opener.
The game remained scoreless early until the evening’s first power play, as the Gophers special teams took only nine seconds after Maine’s Dan Kerluke was sent off for hooking. With Yeats unable to freeze an Erik Westrum shot, Johnny Pohl continued to bang at the rebound until it finally snuck behind Maine goaltender Matt Yeats (40 saves) and just over the goal line. The goal at 7:50 gave Minnesota a 1-0 lead.
Scoring chances continued for the Gophers. After a botched 2-on-1 by Maine, Minnesota countered, sending Taffe in alone at 12:36. Yeats stood his ground as Taffe tried to stuff the puck between the five hole, keeping the lead to one.
A late penalty to Minnesota’s Jordan Leopold for holding gave the Black Bears their first chance to control the offense, and led to Maine tying the game. With just 5.6 seconds remaining in the first, Todd Jackson was sent in alone on a feed from Robert Liscak. Skating from the right post to the left, Jackson fired a shot that just squeaked inside the right skate of Hauser (34 saves) to even the game at one.
An early penalty to Minnesota’s Pohl in the second period allowed the Black Bears to finally take over control of the offensive play. But even though the Maine generated plenty of grade-A chances, few were on net. At 7:44, though, Lucas Lawson had the best bid, but was stopped on the doorstep by Hauser.
As so often happens, a fluke play turned the game around. After the Black Bears turned the puck over at the defensive blueline, a Westrum one-timer was deflected by a surprised Grant Potulny. The puck changed directions and floated over the shoulder of Yeats, giving Minnesota a 2-1 lead at 8:44.
But 1:56 later, Maine answered. Cutting in on goal two-on-two before getting leveled by the Minnesota defense, Dan Kerluke feathered a pass to Lawson. Not to be denied this time, Lawson pulled the puck around Hauser, stuffing home the equalizer at 10:40.
A penalty to Minnesota’s Matt DeMarchi early in the third period gave the Black Bears the chance for their first lead of the day. Junior defenseman and captain Doug Janik took advantage, blasting a hard one-time shot from the point off the left post and into the net, sending the regional record-first-day crowd of 8,745 — comprised mostly of Maine fans — into pandemonium.
But the Gophers would not go away. Potulny picked up his second of the game, nearly identical to his first. This time on the power play, Potulny was able to get his stick on a Dylan Mills one-timer and deflect it over the left shoulder of Yeats, evening the game at 7:02.
At 9:26, Westrum scored what looked like the game-winner, batting his own rebound out of the air. The goal was controversial, as referee Duke Shegos ruled Westrum’s stick was not above the legal limit when he made contact with the puck. Instant replay, in use for the third consecutive NCAA tournament, was inconclusive, upholding Shegos’ call.
As the third period drew to a close, Minnesota had two golden opportunities for insurance as both Jeff Taffe and Aaron Miscovich had breakaways, with Yeats standing tall.
“As good as our chances were in overtime, I thought our chances to seal the game in regulation getting those two breakaways were the key,” said Minnesota coach Don Lucia, whose Gophers finished the season at 27-13-2.
A penalty, though, to Minnesota’s Paul Martin with 58.4 seconds remaining set up the Maine power play, Schutte’s heroics, and eventually overtime.
In the extra session, Minnesota was able to stop the Maine momentum immediately, going on the power play 31 seconds into the period. Though the Gophers couldn’t manage to score, the Black Bears’ zip from their late goal had all but left.
Midway through the overtime, Minnesota had two glaring opportunities to end the game. At 9:27, Pohl looked for his second of the night to be the biggest, walking in untouched on Yeats. Pohl fired a shot destined for the top right corner, but Yeats flashed his glove, robbing Pohl.
Twenty-two seconds later, the Gophers again looked to have the golden goal as defenseman Nick Angell was set up to finish a two-on-one. Looking like he had an open net, Angell fired a shot that Yeats got across the crease to stop, allowing the band to play on.
Yeats’ saves, though, gave the Black Bears the life they needed and Liscak took advantage, sending his team on. With the game ending just before 1:00 a.m.. in the East, Maine will have less than 19 hours to recuperate for its quarterfinal matchup with top-seeded Boston College.
The two will square off in the late game on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. Colorado College will face number-two seed North Dakota in the first quarterfinal at 5:00 p.m.
Joked Walsh, “I’m hoping the selection committee will meet and decide to play the games on Sunday, but I don’t think that will happen.
“But right through the overtime, we played four lines and six [defensemen]. We practiced Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for Boston College, so we’re prepared.