UND Hockey Falls To Duluth In Longest Tournament Game Ever
The Fighting Hawks were defeated in 5 OTs in the NCAA Midwest Regional final at Scheels Arena
FARGO, ND – Minnesota Duluth Freshman forward Luke Mylymok, who had played just 10 games and scored one goal for the Bulldogs this season, beat North Dakota goalie Adam Scheel 5-hole at 2:13 of the fifth overtime to give the Bulldogs a 3-2 victory over top seeded North Dakota and a berth in the NCAA Froze Four beginning April 8 in Pittsburgh.
That ended the longest game in NCAA playoff (and UND and Duluth history and it ended in the most painful way for UND (22-6-1). The Fighting Hawks won both the National Collegiate Hockey Conference regular and post-season playoff titles but couldn’t get by old nemesis Minnesota-Duluth in the Midwest Region title game.
“We had plenty of opportunities to win the game,” said UND Coach Brad Berry, who saw the Fighting Hawks outshoot Duluth 65-54 in the marathon game that lasted about 6 hours, 15 minutes. “We had a ton of opportunities to win the game.”
But it was an unlikely hero, a player from Wilcox, Sask., who was the hero.
Before that, UND hit several pipes, including one off the crossbar by Brendan Budy and a shot that defenseman Jake Sanderson bounced off both goal posts without going in.
And in the same third overtime when Budy hit the crossbar, Jasper Weatherby flipped a shot off Bulldog starting goalie Zach Stejskal that landed on top of the goalie cage, less than a foot away from dropping into the net rather than landing on it.
In what some considered one of the greatest collegiate games ever played, between two hockey heavyweights on the college scene, North Dakota snatched a tie to force overtime in the most improbable fashion.
Berry pulled Scheel for a sixth attacker with two minutes, 40 seconds left in the third period and the Fighting Hawks trailing 2-0 after goals by Jackson Cates on a deflection at 3:21 of the third period and a breakaway by Cole Koepke at 4:41.
Then lightning struck for UND, not once, but twice.
Senior Collin Adams banked in a shot off the goalie at 18:21 for his 14th of the season, and senior captain Jordan Kawaguchi scored his 10th on a Shane Pinto feed at 19:04.5. That’s two goals in :43.5 seconds, with the goalie pulled. Boom and boom.
But the drama continued in overtime.
Duluth’s Kobe Roth, from Warroad, seemed to score the winner on a 2-on-1 rush at 7:38 of the first overtime, but the goal was disallowed after a review because of an offsides call on Roth as he entered the zone.
Then the game dragged into the second, third and fourth overtime without a goal, draining the energy out of players from both teams as well as the 1,494 fans in attendance, limited to one-fourth of the rink capacity by NCAA mandate.
More drama came in the fourth overtime when Duluth rookie goalie Zach Stejskal (57 saves) had to leave the game with leg cramps, replaced by sophomore Ryan Fanti, who stopped all 6 he faced and earned the victory as well in the 17 minutes, 36 seconds he played.
“We could argue all day that we could have won the game,” Berry said. “We had a ton of opportunities to win the game. We felt it wasn’t fair that we didn’t win the game.But that’s what sports is. That’s what life is.”
Berry was asked how this ranked among all the games he’s played in throughout his career as an amateur at UND or pro, or coached in.
“I would put it down as one of the most memorable ones, even though we lost,” Berry said. Berry also said the game highlighted the UND culture “as a team that never gives up, a team that is relentless, a team that just fights to the very end.”
And the ending as the clock approached 1 a.m was bitter, so painful to the players and staff, and so final. NCAA title dreams and hopes ended on the Scheels Arena ice surface after an epic battle between two great teams and fierce rivals. Prolonged stick salutes at the blue lines from both teams to the other at the finish attested to how the players viewed their opponents in this epic battle.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this group,” said MInnesota Duluth Coach Scott Sandelin a former UND defenseman with Berry.”I thought our guys played great. It was a great hockey game. Two good teams going at it.”
But in a game nobody deserved to lose, UND finally did when Mylymok, with his teammates yelling him from the bench to shoot, did just that, using a UND defenseman as a partial screen to find the pot of gold.
“You sort of wonder if the gods of hockey don’t shine down upon you,” Berry added.
*Both teams were 0-3 on the power play and there was no penalty called in any of the 5 overtimes.
*Sanderson led UND in shots on goal with 8 followed Jacob Bernard-Docker and Kawaguchi with 7, and Pinto and Weatherby with 6. Nick Swaney led Duluth with 8 shots.
*Minnesota Duluth (15-10-2) will play the UMass in the Frozen Four semifinals on April 8. This marks Duluth’s fourth straight NCAA Frozen Four appearance, winning NCAA titles in 2018 and 2019. There was no NCAA tourney last year because of COVID-19 stopping play for all colleges before NCAA tournament play could even begin.
*UND won the faceoffs 71-54.
*UND’s Adams was named to the all-tournament team and tourney MVP. Other members were goalie Stejskal, defenseman Hunter Lellig, forward Mylymok of Duluth, forward Weatherby and defenseman Sanderson of UND. Adams had 3 goals in his two tournament games.
Courtesy: UND Athletics