March 25, 2017 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Miska's Turn to Be Hero

Freshman Goaltender Helps Save Sluggish UMD's Season in OT Win

 (photo: Russ Hons)

(photo: Russ Hons)

by Dane DeKrey/CHN Reporter

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FARGO, N.D. — The Ohio State University was literally a wrist shot away from pulling off the biggest upset of the NCAA hockey tournament thus far.

Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, but fortunately for Minnesota-Duluth, that wrist belonged to Bulldogs freshman goaltender, Hunter Miska.

With just under five minutes left in the third period, and the game knotted at two apiece, Minnesota-Duluth was in trouble. Ohio State had clawed its way back from a two-goal deficit and was knocking loudly on the doorstep for more. Inevitability seemed to be on OSU’s side.

After a fracas in the high slot of UMD's defensive zone, Ohio State forward David Gust suddenly broke loose for a one-on-one with Miska.

“It was pretty crazy,” Miska said after the game. “I couldn’t really see the puck, and he went through the middle of the slot, so I shot over to the far side where he was going. He took a little time with the puck, so I threw my pad stack and, instead, I got it with my wrist. The puck didn’t get my padding; I got it with my bare skin.”

The save kept the game tied and the Bulldogs’ season alive.

When overtime began, Miska was tested again by the Buckeyes almost immediately, more than once. Once again, he rose to the challenge.

“The overtime save was on a wraparound,” said Miska, as he held a large pack of ice on his season-saving wrist. “The guy was just sitting there, he had me beat, so the only thing I could do was throw my stick over there and make the save. It was pretty lucky.”

But Miska’s teammate, and eventual overtime game-winning goal scorer, Willie Raskob, pushed back against chalking it up to luck.

“Misk was unbelievable,” Raskob said. “If you’re going to look back at this game, it wasn’t one of our prettier performances out on the ice, but to know he (Miska) is back there, it is a calming presence, because he always gives you a chance to win.”

Minnesota-Duluth came into this season knowing it was loaded in all facets of the game, except goaltending. Heir apparent Kasimir Kaskisuo decided to leave early for the pros, leaving UMD with three freshmen as options. Miska proved himself early in the season, and wound up getting the No. 1 slot. And Friday in the NCAA West Regional First Round, he was more than just the final piece, he was the most pivotal cog in saving what's been a glorious season already for the Bulldogs.

With Miska having done his part by keeping an at-the-time sluggish Minnesota-Duluth team in the game, Raskob repaid the favor by burying a slap shot, and Ohio State’s season, midway into the overtime period.

“It was probably the first time the whole OT that we finally had some zone presence,” Raskob said. “A shot came from the point, then the puck came up off the boards, and then it got fed to me in the center of the slot. I just buried my head and hit it as hard as I could.”

It was nothing pretty or fancy, but it was enough to get the job done, a fact neither lost on nor underappreciated by Minnesota-Duluth head coach, Scott Sandelin.

“It was one of those games where we were just kind of really grinding it out,” Sandelin said. “Nothing was really clicking. We had very few spurts here and there and they (Ohio State) were making a very strong push, but Hunter [Miska] was the difference, no question.”

UMD lives on to face Boston University in Saturday's Regional Final.

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