(UMD Bulldog Sports) — This time there would be no overtime.
After needing sudden death in its first two NCAA Tournament games, the University of Minnesota Duluth appeared to be headed for a third one Thursday night. Alex Iafallo, however, had other plans.
The senior left winger redirected a pass from senior defensemen Willie Raskob past Harvard University’s Merrick Madsen with 26.6 seconds remaining in regulation to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 heart-pounding victory over the Crimson in the NCAA Frozen Four semifinals. That goal, Iafallo’s 20th of the season, put UMD in the national championship game, which is set for Saturday night at Chicago’s United Center.
“We kept the puck in at the blue line and that was pretty much the key to the goal,” said Iafallo, who extended his scoring streak to career high 14 games and became the UMD’s first 50-point scorer in five years. “Willie made a good play — we run that in practice all the time. We got the puck to the net and I was able to shovel it in.”
Iafallo gave the Bulldogs (28-6-7 overall) their first lead of the night over Harvard, a club they had last played in December 1996. The Crimson, the NCAA Tournament’s No. 3 overall seed (UMD was No. 2) was riding a 16-game winning streak and had gone 18 straight outings without a loss — a run that started on Jan. 20.
Bulldogs head coach Scott Sandelin was thrilled:
On Harvard’s third power play opportunity of the first period, Tyler Moy scored on a one-timer from the left faceoff circle to put the Crimson up 1-0 at the 15:00 mark. A little over three minutes later, rookie right winger Joey Anderson answered for the Bulldogs, wristing in a shot from the high slot that squeezed between Madsen’s pads. Madsen and UMD freshman Hunter Miska then hooked up in a goaltender’s duel as they finished with 36 and 39 saves, respectively. That stop total was one shy of career high for Miska, who is now unbeaten in his last 19 starts (16-0-3) and 27-4-5 on the year.
With the triumph, the Bulldogs hiked their winning streak to eight games. That includes a seven-game run during the postseason — a UMD program record. Now they’ll get the chance to play for the NCAA Frozen Four championship for the third time in team history.
“It’s a great experience for our guys and our fans to stay around two more days and play for the national title” said UMD head coach Scott Sandelin, who directed UMD to its lone NCAA crown in 2011. “Even if we would have lost tonight, I’d still be proud of our team. They are a special group.”