To The Max
Novak Scores Yet Another In Long Line Of Huge Goals
by Avash Kalra/Senior Writer
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PHILADELPHIA Certainly, there are many defining moments for the 2013-14 NCAA champion Union Dutchmen, from the stretch late in the first period when Union scored three times in less than two minutes, to defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere’s otherworldly plus-seven performance, to captain Mat Bodie’s empty-net goal that sealed the program’s first championship.
But with five minutes played in the third period, Union still held only a one-goal lead in a game that it had largely controlled ever since late in the first.
At that point, after – who else? – Gostisbehere forced a Minnesota turnover, junior Max Novak redirected a Kevin Sullivan shot from the blue line, beating Gophers goaltender Adam Wilcox and extending the Dutchmen lead to 5-3.
Novak, who has built a deserved reputation for scoring huge goals in his Union career, scored in five consecutive games heading into the Frozen Four, was held scoreless in Thursday’s semifinal win over Boston College, and helped keep Minnesota at bay on Saturday.
“We talked about that after the second, trying to get that next goal,” said the Oak Ridge, New Jersey, native. “We knew they were going to keep pressing. A one-goal game, that’s too close for comfort for us. The other day, we discovered that from BC.
“That was a really big goal for us.”
In addition to everything else, it was Novak's eighth game-winning goal, a new school record and one ahead of Johnny Gaudreau for the national lead. Gaudreau had seven GWGs out of his 36; Novak had eight among his 15, a remarkable 53 percent of his goals. And most of those, like many in years past — like his two-goal game in last year's ECAC championship — haven't just been incidental.
The goal also represented yet another “wolf-pack goal” – as the Union players call them – rushing the net, getting multiple shots on goal, redirections, taking away opposing goaltenders’ eyes.
Fourteen minutes, and 29 seconds of game time later, Union players leapt off their bench in celebration, eagerly surrounding goaltender Colin Stevens as confetti fell from the rafters of the Wells Fargo Center.
“I was speechless,” said Novak. “I don’t think there are the right words to put that in perspective, that feeling that you just won a national championship. It still doesn’t feel like we won it.”
In each game at the Frozen Four, the Dutchmen allowed a goal in the third minute of play to their opponent’s leading scorer – Boston College’s Johnny Gaudreau on Thursday and Minnesota’s Justin Kloos on Saturday.
Novak, along with fellow leaders Daniel Carr, Mat Bodie Cole Ikkala, and certainly a coaching staff behind Rick Bennett, helped maintain a mindset that navigated a comeback each time.
“We just take it one shift at a time,” continued Novak, who finished his junior season with 15 goals and 16 assists. “After they scored that goal, we put that behind us. We just tried to get it back as quickly as possible. Our team’s been great with that all year, rebounding.”
For Novak, and evidently for many of the players, sitting in their locker room in their jerseys long after the game’s final horn, the ending didn’t feel real. And after months of preparation, how could it?
Said Novak, “It feels like we might have a game next week or a practice next Monday.”
Of course, there’ll be no practice for Union in Schenectady, N.Y., for many months. After all, the summer here’s now – warm months in upstate New York for Novak and his team to celebrate the program’s first-ever national championship.