Narrowest of Margins
In Friday night’s West Regional action, Minnesota-Duluth scored an extra-attacker tying goal versus Princeton with just 0.8 seconds left in the game, before going on to win after more than 15 minutes of overtime.
But New Hampshire eclipsed even that narrow margin, scoring with just 0.1 seconds left in the game.
Of the last four faceoffs of the third period, the only one that was won by the Wildcats was the faceoff that led to the tying goal. Just prior, a North Dakota player had fired the puck out of the zone and out of play, and the play had to be reviewed to determine exactly where the puck was when it left the ice surface. After consulting the videotape, it was determined the faceoff should take place in the North Dakota zone.
“[Assistant coach Scott] Borek, who works with our offense, decided to put [Thomas] Fortney on the ice, because he is right-handed,” said Umile. The decision paid off, as Fortney found himself in position to bang home a rebound to send the game to overtime.
“Those plays, believe it or not, we practice them all the time,” said Umile, of the tying goal. “We just hope we can execute when we are in that situation.”
That extra attacker goal was the tenth goal scored with the goalie pulled so far in this postseason. Five of them were scored last weekend in the conference tournaments, one was scored by Minnesota in the women’s Frozen Four, and two were scored in the Princeton vs Minnesota-Duluth game in the West Regional.
After all the drama to end the period, it took just 45 seconds of overtime for Peter LeBlanc to cleanly beat North Dakota goalie Brad Eidsness.
“I just stepped off the bench,” said LeBlanc. “I thought my stick had broken on the shot, so I was really surprised it hit the back of the net. I thought I had flubbed it.”
Who Are You?
Despite the fact that New Hampshire and North Dakota have been two of the most active NCAA programs in the last decade — the Wildcats have been to the postseason in each of the last eight years, while the Fighting Sioux have been in seven, including making the Frozen Four in each of the last four years — they have never met in a tournament game.
All previous meetings between the two teams have been in Durham or Grand Forks, except for one lone game — a 2-2 tie — that came in 2000’s Icebreaker Tournament. North Dakota held a commanding 10-3-2 lead in the all-time series between the two schools coming into the game.
But that didn’t matter, said North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol.
“Past records, past games have nothing to do with it,” he said. “It is a one game shot. The things in the past have no bearing on tonight.
“We felt confident going into the game, and we felt confident going into overtime.”
Not Exactly Home Away From Home
This is the third time that New Hampshire has hosted a NCAA Regional at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester. In the previous two instances, the Wildcats advanced to the NCAA tournament and were seeded in Manchester, but lost in the first round.
In 2004, New Hampshire was the third seed but dropped a 4-1 decision to Michigan. The Wildcats had the top seed in 2007, but were upset by No. 4 seed Miami, 1-0. As a result, the New Hampshire team felt some pressure to perform in their own back yard.
“We love playing here,” said Umile. “That’s been the difficult part about it. The management staff at the arena treats us really well, and the city does a great job promoting it, but we haven’t done our job the last few years.”
Delay Of Game
The Northeast Regional games in Manchester were scheduled to air nationally on ESPN2. The entire first period of the first game between New Hampshire and North Dakota, however, was not shown, because of a lacrosse game: Virginia beat Maryland in seven overtimes, the longest lacrosse game in NCAA history.
Prior to today’s five goal output, North Dakota limped through the last couple of games, with just one goal in last week’s Final Five games. The last time the Sioux went two games and scored a single goal was back in November of 2007.
Before the loss, North Dakota was 22-1-2 when scoring three or more goals this season. The Sioux become just the fourth team in NCAA postseason history to lose a game when scoring five or more goals.
Goodbye To Duncan
The game marks the end of UND’s Ryan Duncan’s college career. Duncan led the team in scoring this year, and was the leading active scorer with 172 points, before the 45th second of overtime came and his career ended.
“Ryan Duncan is a special player,” said Hakstol. “And he’s going to go down as one of the better players in our program because of his completeness as a player.”
Duncan won the Hobey Baker Memorial Award in 2007, his sophomore year. In addition, this game marked his 175th consecutive game, tying the all-time NCAA record with former Sioux player Chris Porter.
The Upsets Just Keep On Coming
With New Hampshire — the No. 3 seed in the Northeast Region — beating No. 2 North Dakota, of the first five games played in the NCAA tournament four were won by lower seeds. Shortly after the UNH-UND game ended, a fifth (Cornell 3-2 over Northeastern) was announced on the loudspeaker at the arena.