March 29, 2009 PRINT Bookmark and Share

A Shot For the Ages

by Matthew Conyers/CHN Staff Writer

Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon leaps into his players' arms after referees ruled an OT goal was good. (photos: Paige Ozaroski)

Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon leaps into his players' arms after referees ruled an OT goal was good. (photos: Paige Ozaroski)

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Audio Spotlight

Vermont forward Viktor Stalberg after 2OT winVermont forward Viktor Stalberg after 2OT win
Stalberg on the epic win over Air Force, the winning goal, and more

Air Force coach Frank SerratoreAir Force coach Frank Serratore
Serratore discusses the epic 2OT loss to Vermont, and the bizarre winning goal.

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — The wait was over 12 minutes. Twelve minutes to figure out what the heck happened.

And then, it was time for bedlam.

Officials ruled that a shot by Vermont's Dan Lawson had gone through the net. No, really. It went through the net. Ripped it, stretched it, tore it. Whatever happened, this was the type of winning goal every 12-year-old wannabe hockey star imagines in a cold arena or in their parents’ driveway on any day of the year.

With 5:50 left in the second overtime of the NCAA East Regional final at Harbor Yard, Lawson fired the game-winning point shot through the twine that beat a screened Andrew Volkening, high to his glove side, and gave Vermont a 3-2 double overtime victory to advance to its first Frozen Four in 13 years.

But it wasn’t that simple.

After the shot, second-seeded Vermont (28-11-2) and Air Force continued to play as if the puck had ricocheted off the shoulder of Andrew Volkening or the side of the net. Everyone thought they may have seen the net ripple, but, no, the eyes must have deceived. Nearly two minutes would go by before the officials stopped the game for a better look at the slap shot.

“I was actually screaming to the referees when it happened,” Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon. “I saw the back of the net move on the other side. The puck kind of took a weird bounce. I said, 'That was kind of weird.' It was a bullet of a shot. It didn’t make sense how it came out of the net. How many minutes did it go [before the call]?"

Well coach, the officials said it took 1:49 to review the call.

Still, it felt a lot longer for both benches.

“It was a long time waiting just to see if they would go to review,” Sneddon said. “The referees obviously got the right call and we were lucky to have that bounce go our way tonight.”

“Your heart kind of stops and sure enough there comes the review,” Air Force sophomore Sean Bertsch said. “It’s a tough five-ten minutes.”

With the game stopped and nearly all of the Harbor Yard crowd wondering what was happening, official Marco Hunt went into the scorekeeper’s booth in search of the shot that will live on in NCAA lore forever. As news started to spread through the arena, it became clear Lawson’s shot from about two minutes earlier was being reviewed.

The end result of the wait, was one of the most odd moments of celebration you'll ever see. But it was no less euphoric or meaningful for the Catamounts.

And for the play itself, well that was easy for Lawson to describe.

“I just jumped off the bench and was coming into the zone and [Wahs] Stacy just set me up with a beautiful pass that I could just step right into and I let it go and I looked up,” Lawson said. “I thought it went in but everybody else kept playing, so I did too.

"I came back to the bench and everyone was saying it went through the net. I was like ‘OK lets get it reviewed.' I was pretty nervous that whole time."

At the time, even Hunt acknowledges seeing movement. But he had to had find it on tape.

“The puck was shot and I observed the net move,” Hunt said in an official statement released by the NCAA. “At the first stoppage of play after conferring with the rest of the on-ice crew we determined a review was necessary. Video confirmed the puck entered the net inside the post and under the crossbar.”

As for the time it took to make sure the play was conclusive, Hunt said:

“Because of the length of time between the net moving and the first stoppage of play, it took the technicians time to find the point in the game that we needed to review. Once that point was determined, we used every possible angle to render our decision.”

Then slowly and steadily, Hunt approached center ice with his call.

“The longer it went I became more of a skeptic,” Sneddon said. “I don’t know if they had enough to see to call it a goal. I was convinced at the time I saw but I was worried the video wouldn’t be conclusive.

“It was just a great moment for us when they came out of the penalty box. The more steps they took out of the box without signaling a goal I was feeling good. When [the official Marco Hunt] pointed to the dot it was pandemonium.”

The replay clearly shows the puck sliding through the back of the net at an angle that couldn’t possibly be declared a save or deflection.

“They took a tremendous amount of time looking at that play and they took the time they did because they wanted to get it right,” a gracious Air Force coach Frank Serratore said. “There’s absolutely no question. There’s no doubt in my mind that they made the right call.

“If it wasn’t conclusive, I can’t imagine that they would’ve let the goal stand.”

It was shot to be savored and remembered.

As the hero said himself, these type of things don’t come to often.

Lawson admits to never quite pulling the Roy Hobbs of hockey and smashing a shot through the net.

“I think a couple of [my] shots have gotten stuck in old nets with some loose twine,” Lawson said. “I’ve never dreamed of putting a puck through the net.”

On Saturday, Lawson did just that.

He sent one shot through the net and into the memories of not only every Vermont supporter but every college hockey fan across the country.

“I think everyone got their moneys worth [Saturday],” Serratore said.

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