ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Tied at three goals apiece as time ticked away in overtime against No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth, it looked like St. Cloud State needed a win to get home ice in the first round of the WCHA playoffs.
Hundreds of miles to the south, Nebraska-Omaha only needed to match SCSU in points at the end of the night to get sixth place in the WCHA standings and home ice for the first round.
UNO held the tiebreaker with the advantage in head-to-head competition, but the Mavericks let a third-period lead slip away against Denver and lost it in overtime.
That left UNO with 27 points and tied with SCSU.
SCSU coach Bob Motzko called a timeout with 1:10 to go in OT and considered pulling goaltender Mike Lee to give the Huskies a better chance at two points.
Motzko had his graduate assistants on the phone with the press box in Omaha, getting live updates from the UNO-Denver game. The Huskies’ aggressive strategy turned into lock-down mode late in the when the SCSU bench heard UNO lost, needing only a tie.
“We heard a bunch of yelling and screaming on the bench that Denver had won so we only needed a tie,” St. Cloud forward Ben Hanowski said. “It was pretty hectic but the way this season has gone. I wouldn’t expect it to go any other way.”
“We pinched our D to get up the rink,” Motzko added. “We found out Denver won and our bench was yelling at them to get back. The guys on the ice didn’t know about it, but we had our whole bench yelling.”
The Huskies will host UNO in Game 1 at 7:37 p.m. next Friday at the National Hockey Center.
The Huskies got the tempo in their favor early in the first period when they put a barrage of shots on UMD goaltender Kenny Reiter, who got his stick out to rob Jared Festler on top of the crease with an open net.
SCSU’s momentum brought the crowd to its feet.
“It’s the energy level you need to play with this time of year,” Motzko said. “But you saw Duluth counter and turn it back on us. That’s what playoff hockey is: punch and counter-punch.”
Hanowski scored a pair of goals down low to the left of Reiter early in the first period, but the Bulldogs reversed the momentum and got one goal back before the end of the first by Caleb Herbert.
JT Brown and Brady Lamb added second-period goals to give UMD the lead.
But the Huskies got a big goal from Jarrod Rabey on a one-time slap shot from the point with 1:43 left in the second period.
UMD had a chance to score late in the third period when Mike Seidel got loose on a breakaway, but got hauled down going in on goal as play went on.
With the tie, the Bulldogs take the second-place slot and will host Minnesota State Friday at Amsoil Arena.
“We had another slow start, but we showed a ton of character,” said UMD defenseman Wade Bergman. “We responded, especially in the last two periods and overtime, when it was just like a playoff game.”