MINNEAPOLIS — The tales of this Minnesota-Duluth postseason run won’t need much in the way of embellishment.
The honest truth is pretty amazing on its own.
The latest entry involves a pair of goals in the last 40 seconds of regulation to force overtime and a power-play goal to win it and earn a spot in the West Regional semifinals that seemed destined to be Princeton’s.
Evan Oberg got the tying goal with 0.8 seconds left in regulation Friday, and Mike Connolly scored the winner 13:39 into the extra session, delivering an improbable 5-4 victory over the Tigers at Mariucci Arena.
UMD was down 4-2 entering the final minute but pulled out a victory to remember.
“We didn’t stop believing,” Bulldogs co-captain Andrew Carroll said. “We’ve been through some tough times all year and come back. It’s the best game I’ve ever seen, ever played in.”
The Bulldogs already had demonstrated this postseason that they know how to get ahead of a team and squeeze the life out of it.
Friday, they added another weapon to their arsenal. It was the first time in six games this postseason that they had to play from behind.
After nearly 10 minutes of fits and starts, Jack Connolly got the rally started with 39.4 seconds left by finishing off a pass from MacGregor Sharp with a power play and goaltender Alex Stalock pulled for an extra attacker.
Oberg barely beat Princeton goaltender Zane Kalemba and the clock with a shot from the left faceoff circle, starting a wild celebration on the UMD bench and putting heads down on the Princeton bench.
“I didn’t really see much,” Oberg said. “There were a couple guys laying down in front, but I just tried to get it over the top of them.”
It took a while in overtime, but the Bulldogs finished things off when they got another power play — Princeton’s Cam MacIntyre was called for tripping Jack Connolly in the neutral zone.
Sixteen seconds after that call, Justin Fontaine threaded a pass from the left corner to the right post — just past Tigers defenseman Taylor Fedun — and Mike Connolly knocked the puck home on a second effort.
“We knew we had it in us to come back,” Mike Connolly said. “It just took longer than we would have hoped.”
As UMD celebrated, MacIntyre began a slow skate out of the penalty box and toward his bench.
The Tigers were just fractions of a second away from earning the program’s first NCAA tournament victory, but it slipped away.
“It’s a pretty empty feeling right now,” said senior winger Brett Wilson, who scored two goals as the Tigers rallied from a 1-0 deficit for a 3-1 lead. “We wanted to be the ones to give Princeton its first NCAA win.”
Instead, the Tigers (22-12-1) crashed out in the first round for the second straight year and fell to 0-3 in NCAA play.
Wilson answered Andrew Carroll’s first-period goal for UMD (22-12-8) with a power-play goal to tie things at 1-1.
After Derrick Pallis put the Tigers ahead in the second period on a shot that deflected off a Bulldogs player, Wilson made it 3-1 by converting on a long rebound.
Even after the Bulldogs climbed within one just after Wilson’s second goal behind rookie defenseman Brady Lamb’s first collegiate goal, Princeton maintained its composure and got some separation in the third.
Captain Brandan Kushniruk scored on a shorthanded rush, beating UMD goaltender Alex Stalock and ringing his shot in off the left post with 10:39 remaining for a 4-2 lead.
“We felt we played a great game tonight,” Tigers defenseman Matt Godlewski said. “Unfortunately, it just didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to.”
The Bulldogs made sure of that with their late flurry.
“On the bench they just kept saying, it’s not done, it’s not done. We can do it, we can do it,” Minnesota-Duluth coach Scott Sandelin said. “Obviously, we got it done.”