Minnesota Duluth knocks UND out in the longest game in NCAA tournament history
Bulldog forward Luke Mylymok scores at 2:13 of the fifth overtime to send the Bulldogs to a fourth-straight Frozen Four.
FARGO -- UND pulled its goalie, down by two goals late in the third period Saturday night, and scored twice to send their NCAA regional final to overtime.
They played overtime. And another one. And another one. And another one. And another one. The game that started on Saturday ended on Sunday. It went 142:13, longer than any game in the 74-year history of the NCAA men's hockey tournament.
That's what made the ending excruciating for a UND team that was ranked No. 1 in the country for much of the season.
At 12:42 a.m. Sunday morning, after 6 hours and 12 minutes of game time, Minnesota Duluth forward Luke Mylymok snapped a shot on a rush that beat UND goaltender Adam Scheel five-hole early in the fifth overtime to give the Bulldogs a 3-2 win in the Fargo Regional final at Scheels Arena.
The goal came moments after UND defenseman Jake Sanderson rang a shot off the post, UND's third time drawing iron in the five extra sessions.
"It will probably go down as one of the most memorable games, even though we lost the game in overtime," UND coach Brad Berry said. "That's what sports is. I told the guys after the game, 'This is life. This is what life is. It's not fair.' At the end of the day, we could have argued all day who should have won the game. . . we felt we had a very good opportunity. We had a ton of opportunities to win the game. We felt it wasn't fair that we didn't win the game. But again, that's what sports is, that's what life is. You keep moving on."
The Bulldogs stormed the ice to celebrate a fourth-straight trip to the NCAA Frozen Four, the first team to pull off that feat since UND from 2005-08. They'll go to Pittsburgh in two weeks, two wins shy of becoming college hockey's first team to win three-straight titles since Michigan in the 1950s.
UND (22-6-1) remained on the ice for several minutes trying to digest the end of their season, which featured a Penrose Cup as National Collegiate Hockey Conference champions and the program's first NCHC Frozen Faceoff title, but it won't end with the school's ninth NCAA national championship.
"We had a really good team this year together," Berry said. "I've been here a long time as a player, as an assistant coach and as a head coach, and I don't know if we had a group that's tighter or cared about each other more than this group. We always talk about controlling the things you can control. There's three things we always talk about: your work ethic, your attitude and your choices that you make every single day. These guys did it to a T, to an elite level."
Captain Jordan Kawaguchi, who tied the game with an extra-attacker goal in the final minutes, hugged all of UND's players as they left the ice.
"Those are my brothers," Kawaguchi said. "That's my family."
The Bulldogs, who have won the last two NCAA national titles, continued their overtime magic.
Minnesota Duluth won overtime games in the NCAA in 2016 (Providence), two in 2017 (Ohio State, Boston University), another in 2018 (Minnesota State-Mankato), another in 2019 (Bowling Green) and another Saturday/Sunday. Three of those overtime wins came in Fargo's Scheels Arena.
UND, meanwhile, lost another multiple-overtime heartbreaker in the NCAA tournament.
In 2017, in the same building, UND lost a double-overtime game to Boston University. The Fighting Hawks went 25 minutes without allowing a shot on goal -- including the entire first overtime -- but couldn't finish it off.
Saturday's game wasn't quite so lopsided -- final shots were 65-54 UND -- but the chances to win it were plentiful.
Gavin Hain hit the crossbar in the first overtime. Shane Pinto hit the crossbar in the third overtime. Just as the third overtime ended, Jasper Weatherby entered the zone on a rush, shot a puck that hit Minnesota Duluth goalie Zach Stejskal, fluttered in the air behind him, and landed on top of the net. Sanderson hit the post again in the fifth overtime.
"When you look at the (puck on) the top of the net. . . you look at Jake Sanderson -- I think it hit two posts, it went double post and out -- you've got to wonder a little bit that the Gods of Hockey aren't shining down on you," Berry said. "Again, that's here nor there. It's one of those things where we needed one more bounce, we needed one more play to score, and we didn't.
"I can't blame any one of our players as far as the loss tonight. They gave it their all. It's everything we've asked the whole year of them. They did it tonight again."
After having the NCAA tournament stripped away a year ago due to the coronavirus pandemic, UND and Minnesota Duluth did their best to make up for it, playing an all-time game that surpassed the previous NCAA tournament-record of 123:53 set by St. Lawrence and Boston University in 2000. The Saints won it in the fourth overtime.
Not only did UND play the longest game in program history -- the previous record was Dec. 21, 1968, when UND beat Minnesota 5-4 in a game that lasted 102:09 -- it also did so down one player. UND senior forward Grant Mismash, who averaged a point per game this season, sustained a leg injury in the second period. He attempted to play a shift in the third, but he couldn't go.
By the second overtime, UND's players had expended so much energy that Berry started playing extra forward Carson Albrecht, trying to spread out minutes and get energy from guys who hadn't played as much.
"The last intermission, a couple of us had IVs going," Kawaguchi said. "We were drinking Cokes just to get sugar in our system, give us some energy. . . pretty much anything that makes you feel that much better, we were doing."
UND, which was 19-0 when scoring the game's first goal this season, had to play from behind in the regional final.
Minnesota Duluth scored back-to-back goals in the span of 1:20 early in the third period to jump to a 2-0 lead.
At 3:21, Bulldog defenseman Hunter Lellig launched a shot from the point that hit Bulldog forward Jackson Cates, popped in the air and landed behind Scheel. Just a couple of shifts later, UND defenseman Ethan Frisch attempted a one-timer from the point, but his stick broke and Cole Koepke took it on a clean breakaway, beating Scheel on the stick side.
UND pulled off a stunning rally late in the third, though.
Senior forward Collin Adams banked one in off of Stejskal from behind the end line with 1:41 to go to cut the Bulldog lead to one. Then, after the Bulldogs missed on a chance at the empty net, UND tied it up. Pinto attempted a shot from the left circle, but it deflected out to the right circle, where Kawaguchi buried it with 57 seconds left.
"I thought we played well," Kawaguchi said. "They're a good team. We're a good team. It's two great teams going at it. Obviously, the score reflected it, the whole game reflected it. Either team could have won tonight. It just happened that they did."
The winning goal came from Mylymok, a freshman with just one prior goal this season.
Scheel finished the game with 51 saves, the most by a UND goaltender since 1994.
Kawaguchi, a senior, led UND in scoring for the third-straight year, becoming the first player to do so since Greg Johnson (1990-93). Although the NCAA has ruled this season does not count against a player's eligibility, meaning all of the seniors could return, some may elect to move on.
"Emotions are all over the place," Kawaguchi said. "It's hard to put a lot into words right now."