MADISON, Wis. — On one side, you had a coach who couldn’t explain why his team has so much success in overtime.
On the other, you had a coach who bit his tongue before explaining what happened in the latest extra session.
Travis Oleksuk’s second goal of the game, with 10.8 seconds remaining in overtime, helped No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth escape a crazy night at the Kohl Center with a 6-5 victory over No. 15 Wisconsin.
The Bulldogs improved to 10-1-11 in their last 22 overtime games, spanning the last two-plus seasons.
“I don’t know. I really don’t,” Minnesota-Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin said. “I’d like to say I’ve got this masterful game plan, but it’s try and get pucks to the net and any shot is good.”
Oleksuk slid home the rebound after a poke check attempt by Wisconsin goaltender Brett Bennett—the fourth goaltender to sign into the game between the two teams.
But it was what happened in the seconds before that had Wisconsin enraged. Bulldogs forward Mike Connolly appeared to get his stick in the skates of Wisconsin’s Jake Gardiner, causing the defenseman to fall and lose control of the puck.
“It was the strangest thing I’ve ever seen,” Badgers coach Mike Eaves said.
Eaves referenced the case of Rensselaer coach Seth Appert, who was suspended one game by ECAC Hockey this week for using part of his postgame news conference to show reporters video of a controversial call.
“The referee in chief will clearly hear from us, and that’s about all I’m going to say about this,” Eaves said. “You guys [reporters] saw it. You can write about it and you won’t get penalized. I will definitely have a call with Mr. Greg Shepherd.”
It was the second overtime goal this season for Oleksuk, who also won the Oct. 29 game against Bemidji State with seven seconds left in the extra session.
“I can’t explain it,” Oleksuk said. “The puck just seems to be lucky for me right now. It seems to be going in. I’ll stick with that.”
There weren’t full explanations for the struggles by the starting goaltenders, either, in a game where two-goal leads didn’t amount to much.
Minnesota-Duluth’s Kenny Reiter was summoned to the bench after allowing three goals on eight shots in the game’s first 18:56.
Sean Dolan, Tyler Barnes and Craig Smith scored in the first period for the Badgers after Mike Seidel scored the first of his two goals for the Bulldogs.
Part of the reasoning behind the move was to give the rest of the team a wake-up call, Sandelin said. “We were playing [poorly],” he said. “You still need one of those saves.”
Wisconsin’s Scott Gudmandson got the hook after seeing three of the 13 shots he faced go past him in 25:15.
Seidel and Justin Fontaine scored on Gudmandson in the first 5:15 of the second period to even the game at 3-3.
“Pucks that he should have been stopping, that he usually stops, he didn’t stop,” Eaves said. “We haven’t seen that from Goody.”
Oleksuk put Minnesota-Duluth (10-1-2 overall, 7-1-1 in the WCHA) ahead just 17 seconds after Fontaine’s goal—and on the first shot Bennett faced. Kyle Schmidt made it 5-3 with nine minutes remaining in the second, completing a four-goal swing.
Jordy Murray pulled the Badgers within a goal before the end of the second period, but the flow of goals subsided in the third period, even as Wisconsin (6-5-2, 3-4-2) searched for an equalizer.
It finally came in the final minute, when Barnes got a piece of a Craig Smith shot to deflect it underneath Bulldogs goaltender Aaron Crandall with 43.4 seconds remaining.
The emotions took a 180-degree turn near the end of overtime. Wisconsin had its third straight home loss, and Minnesota-Duluth earned a fourth straight victory.
“Sometimes, if you believe, good things happen,” Sandelin said.