March 28, 2009 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Bulldogs Cap Miracle Comeback With Overtime Winner

by Dan Myers/CHN Staff

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota-Duluth has followed a pretty simple postseason recipe in regards to winning hockey games — get ahead early and watch Alex Stalock close it down.

In Friday's West Region semifinal at Mariucci Arena, the Bulldogs took that recipe, ripped it from the cookbook and set it ablaze.

What happened instead was a near-miracle conclusion to regulation, forcing an overtime where UMD snatched victory away from devastated Princeton — which was trying for the program's first-ever win in the NCAAs.

Stalock was not on his game for much of the night but the UMD offense bailed him out — albeit barely — as Minnesota-Duluth scored the tying goal with under a second remaining in regulation and won 5-4 in overtime to advance to Saturday's region championship against Miami.

In five previous postseason contests, Stalock allowed just three goals combined.

Friday night, that was a summary of Princeton's first two periods.

A shorthanded goal midway through the final period appeared to be the final nail in the UMD coffin. It put the Tigers up two goals, and with Zane Kalemba's sub-two goals against average in net, the lead appeared safe.

"We've shown character all throughout the year," said Mike Connolly, who scored the game winner 13:39 into OT. "We knew we had it in us to come back, it just took a little longer than we had hoped."

"The guys in our locker room, they didn't stop believing," said UMD senior forward Andrew Carroll. "That was the best game I've ever seen ... ever played in."

Princeton clung to a 4-2 lead with under a minute left before a tripping penalty on Cam MacIntyre gave the Bulldogs their fifth power play of the night. Jack Connolly scored on a nice pass by MacGregor Sharp right on the doorstep just 25 seconds into the advantage.

The Mariucci Arena crowd, loudly behind the Bulldogs all night, became deafening following Evan Oberg's goal with 0.8 seconds left in regulation. But Duluth was not out of the woods yet.

"It was an unbelievable feeling," Carroll said. "But we had to make sure we came out ready to go in overtime. We couldn't get too hyped up."

For Princeton, it seemed like a bad case of deja vu. Last week against Cornell, the Tigers led by two in the third period before watching the Big Red score twice in the final three minutes, including the tying marker with 25 seconds remaining, before scoring midway through the second overtime en route to the win.

"Unfortunately, we did see something like that last week," said Princeton forward Brett Wilson. "Obviously, it's a pretty empty feeling. Having played here for four years and getting here two years in a row, I think we wanted to be the ones to get Princeton its first NCAA win."

The experience of a week ago did not have much affect on his players, according to Princeton coach Guy Gadowsky.

"Our guys have come through those challenges with flying colors," Gadowsky said. "It may sound strange, but after having the game tied up the way it did, with what we've seen in the past from our guys in terms of mental toughness and overcoming challenges, I didn't feel bad."

But the Tigers couldn't get it done in overtime. Already victims of a power-play goal allowed in the last minute of regulation, the Tigers allowed another in the overtime, capping UMD's remarkable rally.

Faceoff for Saturday's championship game is set for 8 p.m. CT. Duluth enters the contest knowing it can win games any number of ways.

"We would not have gotten here without Alex," Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said. "It feels good to know that we could come out and give up four goals and still get him a win."

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