MANKATO, Minn. — In a classic series that will be remembered for years to come, is it any shocker that a weekend defined by overtime battles would be decided in a game that went two extra frames?
For the second time this weekend, the two teams battled for almost 100 minutes without deciding a winner. Finally, a goal by Minnesota’s Tony Lucia gave the No. 15 Gophers a 3-2 victory over No. 10 Minnesota State, punching Minnesota’s ticket to St. Paul for next weekend’s WCHA Final Five.
“I’ve been coaching a long time and I’ve never been a part of a weekend like this,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said. “I guess when you coach long enough, you get to see a little bit of everything.”
The series had a bit of everything, the lone exception being goals. You can thank Minnesota’s Alex Kangas and Minnesota State’s Mike Zacharias for that.
Not that they need to apologize.
“People came in saying this was going to be a goaltender’s duel,” Zacharias said. “I think we gave the people their money’s worth.”
For the third straight game, the two netminders matched each other save for save. Kangas made 44 saves Saturday, but may have been upstaged by Zacharias, who stopped 47 shots, many of them spectacular saves.
Despite the lack of goals scored, there certainly was no lack of chances.
The Mavericks scored first on a Mick Berge goal, set up by a pair of pretty passes. Geoff Irwin dished from the left circle to Kurt Davis at the point. Davis one touched a pass to Berge at the right circle. His shot never left the ice and squeezed through Kangas’ five-hole at 8:38 of the first.
Minnesota evened the score at 18:12 on a Jay Barriball shot from outside the crease. His shot beat Zacharias blocker side.
The series’ scariest moment came 6:09 into the second when Minnesota’s Tom Pohl was hit along the benches. His helmet came loose and he caught an elbow in the head by MSU’s Jason Wiley, and his head appeared to hit the top of the boards. Pohl lay motionless on the ice before being taken off the ice on a backboard. He was brought from the arena by ambulance to Immanuel St. Joseph’s Hospital in Mankato before being airlifted to Mayo Medical Center in Rochester for further observation. Lucia wasn’t willing to offer much after the game, only saying Pohl was in stable condition.
Wiley, meanwhile, was given a five-minute misconduct, giving the Gophers a golden opportunity to open a lead, but a checking from behind minor on Mike Carman a minute into the power play short-circuited the advantage.
The Gophers took advantage of some Mavericks’ misfortune at 13:51 of the second. As Minnesota charged down the ice on a three-on-two break, MSU defenseman Nick Canzanello fell down. Mike Howe’s initial shot was stopped by Zacharias, but nobody was there to pick up Patrick White, who blasted the rebound into a wide open net.
“If you fall down on a play like that, somebody is going to be left wide open,” Mavericks’ coach Troy Jutting said. “Unfortunately, in that case it ended up in the back of our net.”
MSU’s Zach Harrison had a breakaway chance stopped with just under three minutes to play in the second.
Kael Mouillierat’s tip in goal 3:20 into the third tied the game at two. That’s when the goalies took over.
The Mavericks hit a pair of pipes in the first overtime and got a number of critical saves from Zacharias in a back-and-forth frame.
The Mavericks had two possible goals reviewed in the first overtime. Referee Derek Shepherd ruled a player ran into Kangas on the first review, which came just four minutes in.
The save of the game came with just under five minutes remaining in the second overtime, as MSU’s Jon Kalinski snapped off a wrister from the slot with traffic in front of Kangas. The freshman stuck out his leg pad, however, and steered the shot wide.
“It was sitting right there and I just tried to get it off as quick as I could,” Kalinski said. “I don’t know how he got over there. He made an unbelievable save.”
The winning goal came at 16:59 of the second overtime off an initial shot by Evan Kaufmann. His shot was stopped by Zacharias, but Lucia charged hard to the net and got wood on the puck, slipping it through the five-hole.
“I’ve never scored a bigger goal in my life,” Lucia said. “We came in between periods and just said we were out-chancing them; we just need to bear down in front of the net and get a dirty goal. The coaches were telling us it was going to be a rebound goal and they were right.”
“I made the first save but I don’t know exactly where the puck went,” Zacharias said. “But it slipped behind me.”
The win puts Minnesota (17-15-9) in sole possession of 11th place in the PairWise rankings. The Gophers will play Thursday night at 7:07 p.m. in the Final Five play-in game against St. Cloud State at Xcel Energy Center.
Minnesota State dropped into a tie for 13th with Wisconsin and must hope for help next weekend.