It’s easy to look at the box score and flush out that Minnesota-Duluth’s power play made the difference in its 5-4 overtime victory Friday over Princeton in the West Regional.
The Bulldogs scored one of their two final-minute goals with the man advantage (actually a two-man advantage because goaltender Alex Stalock was on the bench) and got the winner on the power play.
But before Jack Connolly’s goal late in regulation, UMD was 0-for-4 with just five shots on goal and had allowed what appeared to be a decisive shorthanded goal in the third period.
“Our power play was sloppy to say the least most of the game,” said UMD winger Mike Connolly, who scored in overtime on a feed from Justin Fontaine.
So what changed?
The Bulldogs’ power play essentially scored on the same play twice. On Jack Connolly’s third-period goal, MacGregor Sharp found him at the back door on the right side.
On Mike Connolly’s winner, Fontaine found him at the right post with a pass through the slot.
“We shifted some guys around, talked about some different plays,” Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said. “We weren’t getting the puck to the net. We weren’t doing a whole lot of anything. Sometimes our power play has been like that this year, and the next thing you know, we get a goal.
“I thought we passed up some shot opportunities, but we got the main one when it counted, and that’s what those guys have done most of the year, and that’s why our power play is 20-plus percent.”
Crowd Behind UMD
There’s still a big “M” on the seats at Mariucci Arena, but on Friday, Bulldogs fans took the building for their own.
The paid attendance was 7,187 in the 10,000-seat arena, but the building erupted toward the end just as it does for Minnesota home games.
“It was awesome,” Sandelin said. “The last time I heard it get that loud was when we played Minnesota, and I didn’t like it.”
Even on the other side, the environment was appreciated.
“It’s always fun to play in an atmosphere like that,” Princeton winger Brett Wilson said, “even when it’s against you.”
With 12.1 seconds left in regulation, the referees moved a faceoff into the neutral zone, adding that much more drama to Minnesota-Duluth’s late goal.
Sandelin said the explanation he was given was that one of his players pushed a Princeton player into goaltender Zane Kalemba, forcing a stoppage.
They Said It
Sandelin: “The nice thing is we know we’re not going to play three games in a row.”
Princeton coach Guy Gadowsky: “It took two pretty special goals to tie it up.”
Minnesota-Duluth defenseman Evan Oberg: “This is the biggest game of all of our lives. I don’t think any of us have been in this situation, and it feels unbelievable to win.”
Sandelin, giving a quick retort when asked to describe Jack Connolly’s goal for those who didn’t see it: “It was a great goal.”
• The game went on in the second period while the scoreboard blacked out. After a delay, the clock was reset to 13:55, but the team names had changed from UMD to Bulldogs and from Princeton to Tigers.
• Minnesota-Duluth had a rush up ice stopped with 1:58 remaining in regulation when a linesman ruled that an extra attacker for Stalock jumped on the ice too soon. The faceoff came out to the center circle, and Stalock left the ice seven seconds after the Bulldogs won the draw and got the puck deep in the Tigers’ zone.
• After going without an overtime loss in its first 32 games of the season, Princeton lost two of its final three games of the season in OT.