MILLER: An unjust ending for the Fighting Hawks
FARGO—Hockey can be the cruelest sport.
The UND men's hockey team lost to Boston University 4-3 in double overtime in the NCAA tournament on Friday, and the Fighting Hawks took their fans through the most grueling of emotional roller coasters.
Think getting thrown in the backseat of a car driven by an unhinged criminal, getting tossed around while going on a wild police chase.
But as the Terriers celebrated on the Scheels Arena ice, an unlikely event occurred.
UND fans, not always known for level-headed reactions, mostly stayed in their seats and applauded.
Because in single-elimination hockey, justice isn't always served. Karma doesn't always get its chance to kick into gear.
UND fans, who stood for more than 30 minutes of overtime, recognized the effort of a Fighting Hawks team that dominated play in spite of playing without the most valuable player on the team—defenseman Tucker Poolman, who was hurt the previous weekend in the NCHC championship game against Minnesota Duluth.
The effort of the defending national champions was unquestioned. The secondary scoreboard was staggering:
Total shots: UND 145, Boston 67.
Shots on goal: UND 59, Boston 29.
Power plays: UND 6, Boston 2.
"I'm sure you look at the shot totals and scratch your head how you lose a game like this," Boston coach David Quinn said. "They really threw everything at us. They had the puck an awful lot. That's a great team."
The first momentum swing went Boston's way as the Terriers built a 3-1 lead 4:24 into the third period. From there, the Fighting Hawks sent the building into a frenzy by tying the game on goals by Ludvig Hoff and Christian Wolanin, the last of which evening the score at 3-3 with 4:26 remaining in the third.
After UND fell behind 3-1 in the third, UND forward Mike Gornall checked Boston's Kieffer Bellows into the side wall, exploding the glass.
After the stoppage to replace the glass, the Fighting Hawks took the play to Boston.
"When the glass broke, we were brought in as a team by coach and said it's going to be one of the best comebacks in college hockey history and we did that," Wolanin said. "We battled. We did everything we could through a whirlwind of emotions in a big game. It just didn't end the way we wanted it to."
All of the ebbs and flows of the first three periods, though, paled in comparison to the heartbreak ahead in the extra sessions.
The most memorable drama came early in the first overtime when UND's Dixon Bowen appeared to score the game-winning goal.
Players and fans celebrated. Everything about the play initially looked clean.
But after a long review by on-ice officials, the goal was waved off due to offsides on Hoff. It was a difficult play to see with many views obstructed by standing UND fans.
The no-goal signal was a stunning turn of events. It's an incredibly thin line between remembering the matchup with Boston for Bowen's heroics and instead now for a questionable offsides call.
The offsides call will remain in the ire of UND hockey fans for a long time.
"That's sports," UND coach Brad Berry said. "Sometimes it doesn't always go in your favor even though you do all of the right things."