NCAA Fargo Regional: Mylymok Stops Clock on Longest Game, Duluth Advances

FARGO, ND– For the first time since 1984, the University of North Dakota and University of Minnesota-Duluth faced off in the NCAA tournament, this time for a chance to reach the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh. This is also the first time these teams have met since the NCHC Pod in December. In those two Pod games, Duluth won in a shootout and North Dakota won in regulation. 

The first and second period did not yield any scoring, as many chances were stymied by the ice conditions. Pucks bouncing over sticks, pucks sticking to the ice, and overall inability to have the vulcanized rubber settle down for top scoring chances limited both Duluth and North Dakota solid chances to break through in the first 40 minutes. The few chances each side got were due to scrums in front and broken plays off of bad bounces. 

In the third period, Duluth struck first, with Jackson Cates getting first blood off a Hunter Lellig shot from the point and the final bounce going off of Cates’ stick and over Adam Scheel’s shoulder. Minutes later, a broken stick by Grant Mismash at the UND blue line sprung Cole Koepke on a breakaway and beat Scheel blocker side for the two-goal lead. While Duluth locked it down defensively, North Dakota did all they could to get a goal. It wasn’t until under two minutes in the frame when Collin Adams banked a shot off of Zach Stejskal back to get North Dakota within one. After a missed empty-net chance led to an icing, North Dakota moved the puck around the perimeter and a blocked Shane Pinto shot landed on the stick of captain Jordan Kawaguchi to give the Fighting Hawks the equalizer. 

North Dakota used their momentum from the third in overtime and got plenty of chances. However, Duluth looked to have ended the game from a Kobe Ruth goal, but upon review Koby Bender was offside and the game continued onward. And on it did go, as the game went through four complete overtimes, making it the longest NCAA tournament game (142:13) in history. Not without its chances throughout, as North Dakota hit three posts over the overtime frames and Duluth had a couple of close calls from scrums in front of the net. One big moment happened as Stejskal had an injury to his left side and needed to be pulled towards the end of the 4th overtime, making way for Ryan Fanti. All good things come to an end, however, as on the last post shot by North Dakota, Duluth’s Luke Mylymok took the puck the other way and put a snapshot past Scheel to end it with the final 3-2. 

THEY SAID IT

“I thought we played well. Two great teams going at it. The score reflected it and the overall game reflected it. Those are my brothers in there. That’s my family.”– Jordan Kawaguchi about the game.

“It’s one of those things when you get into overtime games, you got to keep the games simple and keep the game in front of you. We used everybody. It’s very unfortunate. You look at our scoring chances and how many posts we hit, how many scoring opportunities we had. At the end of the day, we had enough to win the game and we didn’t close in on it and we didn’t get it done that way. Really, really proud of our guys. They left their hearts on the ice and everything that they did. They worked extremely hard in the room to get to where they needed to.”– North Dakota head coach Brad Berry

“It proves to what we are as far as a team that never gives up, a team that’s relentless, a team that fights to the very end. I told the guys after the game, this is life– this is what life is. It’s not fair. We could argue it all day about who could have won the game. But that’s what sports is, that’s what life is. You keep moving on. You have to learn from the past. Our young guys are going to put this in the back of their mind as far as having this experience.”– Berry on the talk post-game with the team.

“It certainly under adverse circumstances because Zach was cramping, which was a shame because I thought he played well. But it’s not an easy thing for Ryan (Fanti) to do. You’re sitting on the bench and you haven’t played. He made some three or four big stops for us, too. It’s a nice situation that we had all year with goalies that we felt could win games for us.”– Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin on his goaltending situation. 

“It was a game-time decision by the coaches. When I heard my name, I was just ecstatic as a freshman going into these games. Just really emotional and think about all the time and work put into it to get your name called and get to play in a huge game like this is unbelievable.”– Duluth forward Luke Mylymok on when he heard he was in the line-up. 

“You just try to be a good teammate on the bench and let the guys know you’re there for them. That’s the biggest part in the role like that, to let the boys know you’re there for them. You try to be a huge energy guy and get the boys going when you see that they’re tired and try to uplift them.”– Mylymok on his role when he wasn’t getting a lot of ice time.

“My legs were fresh and I knew I had to get some speed on that shot and use the defense on the shot. It just shot it and it went five-hole. You’re not looking for five-hole, but you can take what you can get.”– Mylymok on his game-winning goal.

NCAA Fargo Regional: North Dakota Moves On, Duluth Walks Through

FARGO, ND– The semifinals of the Fargo Regional of the NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship took place on Friday night at Scheels Arena. While the joy of the tournament was felt by most everyone, the day started out on a rough patch for one squad. 

On Friday afternoon, the NCAA had announced that the University of Michigan has a player who tested positive and the team has to withdraw from the tournament. That meant the University of Minnesota-Duluth advanced to the Regional Finals. They would take on the winner of the University of North Dakota and American International College. 

In the first five minutes, AIC was all over North Dakota. The plucky 16-seed wanted to revisit what they did in Fargo in 2019 when they took out the #1 overall seed St. Cloud State. At one point, AIC was outshooting North Dakota. After the first media timeout, however, North Dakota seemed to snap out of whatever jitters they had and went on the offensive. 

Jasper Weatherby started the scoring off just as the North Dakota power play expired, taking a Jacob Bernard-Docker shot off the backboards and putting it past Stefano Durante to make it 1-0. Two minutes later, Weatherby scored his second of the game, pickpocketing an AIC defender and going in to beat Durante and make it 2-0. North Dakota shored up their own zone, making sure AIC didn’t get past the red line. Three minutes after Weatherby’s second; Grant Mismash– playing his first game since late February– used Shane Pinto as a screen to make it 3-0. Collin Adams helped keep the puck alive when he lost an edge, but was still able to protect the puck and get it to Tyler Kleven so it stayed in the zone. Adams was rewarded after getting a chip pass from Riese Gaber, put it past Durante to make it 4-0, concluding four-goals in a 7:20 span. 

AIC started the second with Jake Kucharski in net. However, the offense wasn’t quite there in this frame. The ice was the biggest defenseman out there, with the puck bouncing to and fro for most of the frame, as well as creating a lot of havoc for skate blades to boot. At times it was hard to see if this was the hockey or basketball tournament. The third period was more of the same until a late North Dakota penalty gave away for AIC to score on the power play thanks to a Tobias Fladeby shot beating Adam Scheel. Twenty-nine seconds later, Adams got his second of the game off a centering pass Jordan Kawaguchi to make it 5-1. 

THEY SAID IT

“We heard it loud and clear. We talked about it right after the selection, through the week. It turned to us in terms of what we had to do. That’s a very good team over there. They’ve won a lot of games with very few losses. We just had to play our game. I thought for the most part we did. Hand it to them, they had some momentum shifts in the game and kept us in our zone a little. For the most part, we did a good job of managing the 60 minutes thanks to the leadership of our team.”– North Dakota head coach Brad Berry on being reminded of history of AIC upsetting St. Cloud two years ago.

“It was good for us to get a game in. Our last game was St. Cloud about a week and a half ago. There was a little rust there, but we knocked it off. It was beneficial to us to get that first game in and get our boots on the ground.”– Adams on either playing a game or having rest like Duluth.

“We thought calm would win the hockey game. We knew we’d have to ride the roller coaster a little bit. There’d be times where we’d have to weather some storms.”– AIC head coach Eric Lang about the plan for the game.

“I don’t personally think I was even thinking about it. But the noise in the building obviously makes a difference. I can’t really talk for other guys, but I think we rebounded from it by just calming down like coach said. And that’s really about it. We just kind of went back to our game rather than getting scrambling and making plays.”– AIC captain Brennen Kapcheck on playing in front of a live crowd.

“Our program is beyond the point of moral victories. But I can tell you, I’m as proud as this group, two years later sitting in the same room doing the same press conferences I was two years ago. It’s easy to pack it in there. And I couldn’t be prouder of what these guys have done in terms of commitment for the unknown. Since late August, we’ve been together. These guys have missed weddings, funerals, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and you’re all in all the time.” –Lang about the evolution of his program.

NCHC Frozen Faceoff: North Dakota, St. Cloud to Meet in Finals

GRAND FORKS, ND– The final four took the ice at the Ralph Engelstad Arena in hopes of getting into Tuesday’s Championship game.  

The first game saw the St. Cloud Huskies taking on the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs in a tight battle with a couple of crazy bounces and a play needed rewind to see if there was a goal. 

St. Cloud almost got a lucky bounce early when a dump-in took a weird hop and caught Ryan Fanti by surprise when he was leaving the net, hitting the toe of his pads before it got cleared off the goal line. Moments later, the Huskies got onto the board with Jami Krannila finding a loose puck that was blocked in front and put it past Fanti to make it 1-0. After a review of a possible goal that wasn’t, Kobe Roth officially tied the game after a Jackson Cates shot hit off David Hrenak’s pad and right to Roth’s blade for a simple tap-in to tie it. St. Cloud got the lead back late in the frame, as Kevin Fitzgerald potted home a power play goal off a Krannila shot that hit off of Fanti’s pad and hit Fitzgerald on the pant-leg and dropped to his stick for a tap-in. 

St. Cloud dominated the first part of the second period, holding Duluth in their own zone thanks to two power plays in the first seven minutes of the period, while holding the Bulldogs to only one shot in the first ten minutes of the frame. Duluth did answer back, pinning St. Cloud thanks to some icing calls and eventually evened the game after a Roth shot off the side boards got tipped in by Koby Bender at the side of the net. On a bizarre goal, St. Cloud got the lead back when Chase Brand scored on a wrap-around short-handed, but it took until the next stoppage of play thirty seconds later for it to be reviewed and called a good goal to make it 3-2. 

Try as they might, Duluth pressed hard against St. Cloud, but the Huskies defense was able to shut down the Bulldogs shots, getting bodies in front of the puck and limiting chances towards Hrenak. At the final horn, the Huskies moved onto the Tuesday NCHC Final taking on the winner of North Dakota and Denver.

THEY SAID IT

“We keep trading momentum and chances. We have more opportunities to score more than two goals. That’s how our games have been– they’ve been one-goal games. One of the things I was disappointed in was penalties. You can’t take penalties against any teams going forward. You’ve got to stay disciplined and stay out of the box.” — Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin on the chances had by the Bulldogs during the semis. 

“It’s out of our control. We tried to win tonight’s game and get to tomorrow’s. That’s the mentality we’re trying to have this time of the year, especially going into this tournament. Single elimination is just like the NCAA tournament. The fate is in someone else’s hand now.”– Sandelin on his chances for the NCAA tournament. 

“It feels amazing. For us the last two games have been a lot of growth and fight through some adversity. Finding a way to win a game like that is a big step for our team.”– St. Cloud head coach Brett Larson on his team making a 3rd straight NCHC Final. 

“Learning how to play under the bright lights and the big games are how teams grow. I know the guys are looking forward to that opportunity. The only thing we’ve accomplished is the right to play in a championship. We’ve earned that right and we want to make sure we show up for it.”– Larson on the confidence of his team. 

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The second semifinal had the North Dakota Fighting Hawks and Denver Pioneers facing off. Denver was still undermanned due to COVID protocols, but North Dakota was without Jacob Bernard-Docker, who took a nasty hit in Friday’s game, and Brendan Budy. 

In the first half of the period, it was more a feeling out period. Despite plauying six times already this season, the two teams still sized each other up. North Dakota started to control the pace in the middle of the frame, putting plenty of shots onto Magnus Chrona, but nothing getting through. Denver got most of their offensive time in the last minute, but didn’t have any go past Adam Scheel as 20 minutes went by without a score. 

More physical play in the start of the season, but Gabe Bast got a little too physical on a slash to Bobby Brink giving Denver the first power play of the game. That led to Carter Savoie being credited with the first goal, as his intended pass across the ice deflected off Mark Senden’s stick and into the North Dakota net to give Denver the 1-0 lead. The Pioneers kept the offense going, all while holding the Fighting Hawks to the outside perimeter and limiting them to only three shots in the second frame. 

An early power play gave North Dakota a little momentum to build off of, but the biggest chance during it was early when Shane Pinto cranked a slap shot that clanged off the post and out. North Dakota kept pushing, to the point they pulled the goalie with 2:54 remaining. The Fighting Hawks kept possession and moved the puck inside the Denver zone, leading to a Pinto one-timer that got tipped in front by Jasper Weatherby to tie the game with 1:27 left, pushing the game to extra time. 

With overtime, Denver pressed early, forcing North Dakota to ice the puck a few times, though Denver only had one shot in the period. North Dakota got on the power play midway through the period, but were unable to convert during penalty time. Just as the Antti Tuomisto penalty expired, Gavin Hain hammered a shot from the face off dot past Magnus Chrona to push the Hawks to the NCHC Finals against St. Cloud.

THEY SAID IT

“I thought we executed our game plan well. Us being above pucks and not giving them much, especially through the first 40 minutes was good. We were real close, 90 seconds away. Our guys put their balls on the line tonight. They came and worked, I’m really proud of the guys who came and were on the trip.”– Denver head coach David Carle on his team’s performance. 

“Maybe a little. This game was a little different then Omaha, we were forced to defend more. Having nine forwards and playing the way we did Saturday, you’re going to get tired eventually. We’re not robots out there and we got a little tired towards the end.”– Denver forward Ryan Barrow on the team’s feeling of being short handed on the bench.

“We moved our lines a little around a little bit. They made a push in the second and they had opportunities against us. We came back in the third and the first shift we got the momentum and put some shifts together. I thought we did a lot of good things, but it all evens out in the end. We pulled the goalie with almost three minutes left and found a way to get it done and bring it home.”– North Dakota head coach Brad Berry on his team’s performance. 

“It’s going to be adrenaline tomorrow. Got to play a smart, sound game and play with an attack mentality, but play a structure. Hopefully we can make a couple more plays tomorrow than we did tonight.”– Berry on his team’s energy level going into the Final.

“The biggest thing that resonated in that locker room is the belief we can do it. We’ll take that experience into the tournament and into our next game. It’s not over until it’s over and we’re confident we’ve got a great team, top to bottom. Look at guys stepping up and it means a lot to play in a championship game.”– Weatherby on the mentality of the locker room.

“Could have fooled me, I thought North Dakota let everyone come. It felt like a full arena.”– Weatherby on the crowd energy in the arena.

NCHC Frozen Faceoff Day 2: Denver, Duluth Advance to Monday

GRAND FORKS, ND– Day two of the NCHC quarterfinals happened on Saturday with St. Cloud State and North Dakota awaiting their opponents for Monday night.

In the first match-up, the Omaha Mavericks came back to the Ralph for the third weekend out of the last four to take on the undermanned Denver Pioneers, who only had 10 forwards and six defensemen due to the team being under COVID quarantine. 

Despite the small roster, Denver got on the board first thanks to Hank Crone ripping a shot that ringed off both posts and behind Isaiah Saville to give the Pioneers an early lead. Denver took the play to Omaha, outshooting them 10-2 until the Mavericks struck with two quick goals. First, Jason Smallidge threw a floater on net through a screen and snuck past Magnus Chrona to tie the game. Just about a minute later, Matt Miller turned at the bottom of the face off circle on Chrona’s blocker side and went far glove side to make it 2-1 for Omaha. 

Things got chippy in the second period, with Denver losing Antti Tuomisto and Omaha losing Martin Sundberg to different head-contact game misconducts, as well as five minute majors to go along with it. One major penalty cut into the other, so neither team got the full five minutes to work with, which yielded no power play goals in that time frame. After Omaha’s major power play expired, they caught Denver in a bad line change, leading to Tyler Weiss burying home a Taylor Ward pass to make it 3-1 Mavericks. Denver cut the deficit to one on the power play, as Bobby Brink scored on a one-time attempt that he didn’t get all of, as the puck fluttered over the shoulder of Saville to make it a one-goal game. 

Denver wasted no time getting the equalizer in the third, as Mike Benning took a rebound at the face off dot and slapped it over the shoulder of Saville to tie the game only 42 seconds into the frame. The balance of the third has Omaha offensively on top of Denver, almost doubling their shot total in only ten minutes. That didn’t matter, as a Tyler Weiss tripping call  put Denver on the power play with Benning ripping a shot high over the glove of Saville– thanks to a screen by Kohen Olischefski– to give Denver the lead. The lead was short-lived, as Nate Knoepke potted his fourth of the year when a scramble in front left Knoepke open with a yawning cage in front of him to put the puck into. Denver broke the tie moments later when Bo Hanson tipped a Connor Caponi shot down in front, hit the puck with his backhand, which bounced over Saville’s legs and into the net. Despite pressure from the Mavs with Saville pulled, Denver held them off and will move onto Monday’s semifinal. 

THEY SAID IT

“We say it all the time, NCHC strength. Our only losses in the second half are North Dakota and Denver, and those are two pretty good hockey teams. With the strength of our conference, we hope to get an at-large bid.” Omaha head coach Mike Gabinet on the team’s NCAA tournament chances. 

“Just wasn’t good enough. Penalties were unacceptable. It’s up to us to play the right way and I don’t think we did that.“– Nolan Sullivan on Omaha’s penalty troubles through the game. 

“I don’t think it was too much of a factor. Our team depth is outstanding, it was something we had to rely on tonight. Just being in the moment– the excitement, the adrenaline– I don’t think it was much of a factor.”– Olischefski on the fatigue factor with only 16 skaters for Denver. 

“The biggest thing is we came here to advocate for the league that we should have four teams in the tournament. On the big picture, I think we’ve made our case to be the fourth team going 3-1-1 against Omaha. We’re going to have our hands full on Monday, but we checked a big box in beating Omaha.”– Denver head coach David Carle on his team’s chances for an at-large bid. 

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The second match-up had the defending NCAA champion Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs taking on the Western Michigan Broncos. It took less than three minutes for Dultuh to get on the board, as Koby Bender took the puck into the zone, cut across the slot, and beat Brandon Bussi far post to put the Bulldogs up 1-0. Just after the halfway mark, Western Michigan strikes back with a great redirect from Jason Polin off a wonderful feed from Ty Glover to beat Ryan Fanti and tie the game. 

The game stayed pretty neutral at the start of the third, not many shots either way. Midway through, however, the Broncos broke the tie on the power play. Drew Worrad set Ethen Frank up for a one-timer that Frank blew past Fanti to give Western the lead. With a power play of their own six minutes later, Bender tied the game for Duluth with his second of the night. Bender gathered a clearing attempt from in front of the net and put it past Bussi; who had lost the puck in the crowd in front. Late in the frame, the Broncos regained the lead, as Cole Gallant batted home an Ethen Frank rebound to make it 3-2 with under a minute remaining in the second. 

Duluth controlled the tempo to start the third, then on the power play, Kobe Roth and Noah Cates got in behind the Western Michigan defense for a 2-on-0, with Roth finishing it off and getting the game back at even. Duluth took the lead as Cole Koepke, coming out of the penalty box, picked up a pass and fired it glove side on Bussi to make it 4-3 Bulldogs. The Broncos fought back after that goal, controlling the puck in their offensive zone most of the final six minutes of regulation. That hard work paid off as with 21.8 seconds remaining and the goalie pulled, Polin got his second goal of the night after a feed in front by Josh Passolt sent the game to an extra frame, the first in the quarterfinals. 

Both Duluth went back and forth and had chances early in the frame. However, Connor Kelley ended the game 6:24 into the frame, with a wrister from the point, beating Bussi. Western Michigan took exception to the way the puck was dropped on the face off as it hit the hand of the Duluth centerman and didn’t hit the ice.

THEY SAID IT

“As a team we knew it was going to be like that. Western Michigan has been playing great hockey at the end of the year. We knew it was going to be a one, two goal game. We just have to stick with the game. If something happens, we have to leave it behind and move on.”– Koepke on the back-and-forth nature of the match-up.

“We got to keep an even keel. We talked about it in the second intermission, we can’t get down on those things. It’s over, you can’t change it, but you have the opportunity in front of you to win it in overtime and we did that.”– Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin on keeping his team controlled through the game. 

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Monday’s semifinals will have St. Cloud taking on Duluth in the afternoon game, while the evening game will have North Dakota taking on Denver. The winner of the semi battle it out on Tuesday for the NCHC championship and an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.