GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Perhaps in the game’s final minutes, someone should have queued up Lenny Kravitz singing
“It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over” on Ralph Engelstad Arena’s PA system.
As the clock wound down, nearly all the 11,638 fans were on their feet cheering North Dakota to what they assumed would be a hard-fought 2-1 victory over the visiting Michigan Tech Huskies. A trip to the WCHA Final Five tournament in St. Paul next week seemed assured.
Instead of a Fighting Sioux stick salute at center ice and a rousing send-off to the team’s four seniors, UND fans witnessed a stunning 3-2 MTU come-from-behind victory in overtime to knot the best-of-three series 1-1. The two teams will square off Sunday at 7:05 p.m. in Engelstad Arena for the third and deciding game of the series.
“I think they let up a bit, just a tiny bit, enough for us to get in to the net” said MTU captain Jimmy Kerr. “They took a little bit of a step back and I think we capitalized on it. We haven’t been doing that, and we just did tonight.”
Trailing 2-0 at the start of the third period, MTU got three goals past Sioux goalie Jean-Philippe Lamoureux to snap UND’s nation-best unbeaten streak at 15-0-3. Senior forward Tyler Shelast was the hero for the Huskies, scoring a shorthanded goal with 5.5 seconds left in regulation to tie the game 2-2 and the game-winner on a power play 1:59 into the first overtime.
UND captain Rylan Kaip didn’t agree that the Sioux let up at the end.
“I don’t think we thought we had it or we thought the series was over by any means,” he said. “They’re a good team and they made some good plays at the end. Now we’re just in a situation where it’s game three tomorrow.”
With the Sioux on a power play and the game nearly over, the Huskies got the puck deep into UND’s zone and pulled goalie Michael-Lee Teslak off the ice to go five-on-five. Kerr got the puck in the right corner and threw it on net.
“He just threw it out and I believe it hit Lamoureux’s blocker, hit me in the chest or somewhere else,” Shelast said. “It just bounced down and trickled in the net.”
Just 1:27 into overtime, UND center Chris VandeVelde was called for hooking. It took MTU 32 seconds to capitalize on the man-advantage and end the game.
On the game-winning goal, Shelast said that what appeared to be a shot from the point by junior defenseman Geoff Kinrade was actually a pass.
“I caught it and thought, ‘Wow! I’ve got some time!’ I turned to my forehand and just shot it in,” Shelast said.
It took the Huskies just over five periods of hockey to get a goal past Lamoureux, but when the goals started to come, they were big.
“It was nice that we finally scored some goals,” said MTU coach Jamie Russell. “We’ve had some great chances in this series. It took us until the sixth period before we broke the bubble. We converted.”
In the first period, MTU came out looking like a much different team than the one shut out 4-0 on Friday, but UND capitalized on a turnover in the Huskies’ zone to go up 1-0 on the first Sioux shot on goal. Junior forward Brad Miller ripped a slapper from the top of the right circle that skipped past Teslak and across the goal line at the 4:19 mark.
Lamoureux came up with a huge save at 13:06 of the second period to preserve UND’s one-goal lead. When Sioux defenseman Zach Jones mishandled the puck at the MTU blue line, forward Peter Rouleau, the Huskies’ leading scorer, went in alone on a breakaway. Rouleau got Lamoureux down and appeared to have an open net to put in a backhander, but the Sioux goalie lunged across and gloved the puck out of the air to deny the goal.
UND went up 2-0 at 16:58 of the second on a goal by freshman forward Matt Frattin. The Sioux broke into the MTU zone on a three-on-two rush with Miller carrying the puck down the right side. He passed back to Frattin in the slot, who fired the puck past Teslak high stick side.
The Huskies got just what they needed to start the final period, a quick power-play goal after UND’s Ryan Duncan went to the box for holding 36 seconds in. From the top of the left circle, MTU senior forward Jimmy Kerr one-timed a pass from Geoff Kinrade that beat Lamoureux through traffic to make it a 2-1 game at 1:19.
UND clamped down on its defense and appeared to have the game in hand when MTU’s Ryan Angelow was whistled for cross-checking. Russell called time out to give the team a pep talk and discuss strategy.
“You’ve got to believe that you can do it,” Russell said. “Basically, we had to get pucks to the net and that’s what we did. Certainly, being shorthanded wasn’t in the plan, so we improvised.”
The improvisation and the refusal to quit paid off with a rally and a 3-2 overtime win over the second-ranked Sioux.
“I’ve got to give our guys a lot of credit,” Russell said. “It’s been a year where we haven’t had a lot of bounces. They stuck with it, facing a lot of adversity. I think that shows a tremendous amount of character in our locker room.”
UND coach Dave Hakstol said his team can’t dwell on the outcome, no matter how disappointing.
“You turn the page quickly,” he said. “It’s all about tomorrow night’s hockey game and getting prepared for that hockey game.
“In playoff hockey, it’s one game at a time. “We can sit and debate forever who has momentum, but until the puck drops tomorrow night, it’s going to be about playing the game tomorrow night.”