Editor's note: In this series, the Grand Forks Herald's veteran sports staff ranks its top five memorable games or moments. Herald sports reporter Brad Schlossman continues his list with this No. 3 memorable game.
You may remember the famous, 'Timeout Game.'
In 15 years of covering UND hockey, it is the most improbable comeback I've seen. It involved the wildest momentum swing I've seen at any level of hockey and it happened on one of college hockey's biggest stages.
Some of the details will come later. But to fully appreciate what happened on the night of March 16, 2012, you have to revisit what happened to UND that season.
It was supposed to be a rebuilding year. UND lost five of its top six forwards from the previous year -- Hobey Baker Award finalist Matt Frattin, Evan Trupp and Brad Malone graduated, while juniors Jason Gregoire and Brett Hextall turned pro early. It lost half of its defensive core, including first-team All-American Chay Genoway.
And the hits just kept coming and coming.
In July, the team's top recruit, NHL first-round draft pick J.T. Miller, bailed on UND to play major juniors in Canada. To fill his spot, UND went out and picked up someone with no Division-I offers, Connor Gaarder.
Then, UND lost someone new every month of the season.
In October, rookie Colten St. Clair was ruled ineligible because of a paperwork problem with his online high school.
In November, star rookie Rocco Grimaldi played his last game of the season because of a knee injury he sustained during a preseason skate. Grimaldi tried to give it a go a couple times but only managed to play four games before opting to have surgery.
On Dec. 30, forward Derek Rodwell suffered a season-ending injury.
On Jan. 14, forward Brendan O'Donnell suffered a season-ending injury, leaving UND only 18 healthy skaters. That meant UND had no scratches remaining. Every healthy person would be in the lineup for the rest of the season.
Then, on Feb. 24, walk-on forward Taylor Dickin went down with a season-ending injury, meaning that UND would have to play the rest of the season without a full lineup.
It wasn't just that UND had to play with 17 guys the rest of the year, it was a hodge-podge of a lineup. Several of UND's forwards were defensemen, walk-ons or, in one case, a walk-on defenseman.
It wasn't just that UND was forced to play four walk-ons every night, it's also that they were freshman walk-ons. Most walk-ons are like Brent Davidson and Coltyn Sanderson -- guys that aren't expected to play much, if at all, as underclassmen. The hope is they can develop into lineup fixtures as upperclassmen.
These guys -- Gaarder, Stephane Pattyn, Andrew Panzarella and Dan Senkbeil -- were thrust into huge roles that head coach Dave Hakstol never could have imagined when the year started.
Yet, somehow, this group kept winning.
After starting 4-7-1, UND reeled off an 18-5-2 record in the next 25 games as it headed to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five.
UND managed to beat St. Cloud State in a close, hard-fought game in the Thursday play-in. The final score was 4-1, but it was a 2-1 game until Brock Nelson and Danny Kristo scored empty-netters.
North Dakota-Minnesota at the X
That set up one of college hockey's best spectacles -- North Dakota vs. Minnesota at St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center.
The arena was always packed any time we were lucky enough to see those rivals play in that setting. Half of the arena was green. Half was maroon and gold. The stakes were large and the atmosphere was incredible.
It was one of a kind. This also just happened to be the last of its kind.
UND and Minnesota played in Final Five at the Xcel Center four times, and they were all epic games.
There was the 2004 championship, where Zach Parise/Brandon Bochenski and Thomas Vanek/Grant Potulny went back-and-forth until Potulny won it in the third for the Gophers. There was the 2005 third-place game, where Rastislav Spirko scored on that memorable move. There was the 2007 championship game, where Blake Wheeler scored his unforgettable diving overtime winner.
And there was 2012.
It was the last time we ever got to see North Dakota-Minnesota at the Final Five at the X, and it just happened to be the craziest of all.
Minnesota was the No. 1 seed, the league's regular-season champion. And the Gophers, who did not have to play the night before, came out of the gate flying.
Minnesota outshot UND 12-2 in the first period and led 1-0. The Gophers tacked on two more goals in the opening 10:01 of the second period to jump ahead 3-0.
Not only was the score 3-0, but Minnesota was outshooting UND 19-4. It was a one-sided beatdown.
It appeared that a UND team that had been playing severely undermanned for months had finally hit a wall. It could barely muster a shot on goalie Kent Patterson. The only question was how bad would the final score end up.
UND iced the puck with 5:53 remaining in the second period, still down 3-0. Hakstol called a timeout to put fresh players on the ice and try to keep from going down 4-0.
Nothing special was said during the break, but just 44 seconds later, defenseman Derek Forbort hammered a point shot through a screen for a goal, and the game completely flipped.
Although the Gophers held a 3-1 lead headed into the third period, an undermanned but relentless UND team swarmed Minnesota in the final 20 minutes.
Michael Parks scored at 5:31 to make it a one-goal game. On the next shift, before the public address announcer could finish calling the Parks goal, Brock Nelson made an elite play to bat a puck out of mid-air, settle it down on his stick and snipe the corner of the net to tie it 3-3.
A couple of shifts later, Pattyn carried the puck behind the net, made a move to lose future NHL defenseman Mark Alt and threw the puck to the crease, where captain Mario Lamoureux was surrounded by three Gophers. It was Lamoureux who got his stick on the puck and scored what would be the game winner.
Just 37 seconds later, Corban Knight tipped a Nick Mattson point shot to make it 5-3. Knight, always reserved in his goal celebrations, couldn't hold back. He got down on a knee and fist-pumped.
And before the onslaught was over, Lamoureux scored again. The captain, who had battled an injury all year, scored more goals in 10 minutes than he did in the entire regular season.
Shots on goal were 22-2 UND over the final 26 minutes of the game. That was with the benefit of just 23 seconds of power play time the entire game.
After the game, Hakstol entered the dressing room and celebrated with the team.
A former player told me: "Usually, he is so calculated in his response and how to present his message. But even he had to let it all go in that moment and just enjoy it."
The next night, UND finished off its run by beating Denver 4-0 to win the Broadmoor Trophy, despite playing the entire WCHA playoffs without enough players to field a full lineup.
It was perhaps Hakstol's finest coaching job at UND. And it was a remarkable job by Lamoureux and alternate captains Andrew MacWilliam, Ben Blood and Knight to rally a team that had no business doing what it did.
It was the last time we got to see North Dakota and Minnesota at the Final Five. An unforgettable UND team provided a game that won't soon be forgotten.
Herald Top 5 Lists
3. The 'Timeout Game' was a comeback for the ages