I’ve covered dozens of hockey games since I moved to Duluth a little over two years ago, but few compare to the one I photographed this past Friday night. I was back freelancing for the Duluth News Tribune at the West Regional of this year’s NCAA Hockey Tournament. The University of Minnesota Duluth entered the conference tournament the week before needing to win a play-in game and they did and proceeded to knock off all the top seeds in the conference and earn their way into the NCAA tournament. If that wasn’t impressive enough, what would happen Friday night would make the WCHA tournament a distant memory.
Minnesota Duluth was playing the Princeton Tigers and the Bulldogs went up 1-0 about midway through the first period, but Princeton would score a few minutes later to tie it up. The period would end that way. The second period was back and forth until Princeton added two goals to go up 3-1, but UMD would score once more to make it 3-2 going into the third period. This is where it starts to get interesting.
Halfway through the third period, Princeton scored again to make it 4-2 and it seemed that the Bulldogs’ miracle run was running out of gas. Entering the final minute, the Bulldogs were still down 4-2, but a penalty against Princeton put life back into the Bulldogs as they went on the power play. With goaltender Alex Stalock pulled for an extra attacker, UMD had a 6-4 advantage that they capitalized on with just under 40 seconds left. On the ensuing faceoff, Stalock remained on the bench and the Bulldogs battled until a UMD defender was knocked over in front of the Princeton goaltender and the officials called interference, which set the faceoff outside the zone. It was a bad break for the Bulldogs because only 12 seconds remained and it would take a miracle for them to get it back into the zone in time and score, but that’s just what happened.
The Bulldogs actually had the puck knocked further out of their zone on the ensuing faceoff, but UMD got the puck back near the net and with 0.8 seconds left, Evan Oberg lifted a shot over a bevy of Princeton players on the ice from the lower half of the right face off circle to tie the game. It took the Bulldogs 59 minutes and 20 seconds to score their first two goals and about 40 seconds to score the other two.
The previous week Princeton surrendered two goals in the final nine minutes–the last goal in the final minute to tie the game–and ended up losing their conference tournament in overtime to Cornell so this must have seemed like Deja Vu for the Tigers. Now they had to go back for 15 minutes to the locker room to prepare for overtime.
The place was absolutely ridiculous. The crowd–what was left of them–was going nuts. About 1,000 people probably left the arena in the final two minutes thinking the game was over and in the process missed one of the more improbable comebacks in recent memory. At the start of overtime, the crowd continued going wild and 13 minutes and 39 seconds into overtime, the least penalized team in the NCAA this year committed a penalty and Mike Connolly took advantage of the ensuing power play to score the game-winning goal and send Mariucci Arena and the thousands of Bulldog fans there crazy.
Here is a Youtube Clip of the final minute of the UMD-Princeton game…
It was a great game from both a photographic and an entertainment standpoint. The miracle run continued until the following night when Miami University (of Ohio) defeated the Bulldogs 2-1, but advancing to the Elite 8 of the NCAA hockey tournament isn’t bad for a team most hockey experts had dismissed heading into the final weeks of the season.
And what would this blog post be without some photos so here you go!