Minnesota advances on a buzzer-beater

Senior defenseman Justin Holl was the hero with his game-winning goal with 0.6 seconds left in the game. (Candice Monhollan)

Senior defenseman Justin Holl was the hero with his game-winning goal with 0.6 seconds left in the game. (Candice Monhollan)

PHILADELPHIA — With a rivalry as deep and as old as the University of Minnesota and the University of North Dakota, it was fitting to see the two square off in the Frozen Four semifinals Thursday night.

Even more so, it wasn’t surprising to see that just 33 seconds of the entire game saw a team in the lead. Thirty-three seconds out of a total 3,600 in a game.

Fortunately for Minnesota, they came out on top 2-1 with just a mere 0.6 seconds left in the game, smashing the previous record of 53.4 seconds in the 2002 championship game.

“Honestly, at that point in the game, I was focused on getting the shot on goal because I knew there was hardly any time left,” said senior defenseman Justin Holl, who scored the game-winning goal. “The puck came to my stick and I just wanted to get it on net and fortunately it went to the right place. [I’m] so happy about that.”

To top it off, the goal came as Minnesota was attempting to kill of a late penalty to freshman forward Connor Reilly.

With nine seconds left in regulation, all the players were thinking about was killing the penalty and getting the game into overtime.

But then junior forward Kyle Rau won the defensive zone faceoff and the puck was chipped up the wing to Holl. He passed it in the neutral zone to Rau and with the seconds ticking away, decided to take a shot on net, but the puck was blocked by a defender’s skate and bounced right to Holl’s skate.

Holl kicked it to his stick and with 1.1 seconds left, just threw the puck toward the net and, with 0.6 left, it went in.

Did I mention it was Holl’s first goal of the season?

“I didn’t know it went in for two seconds after because there was a guy right in front of me,” he said. “I didn’t see the goal at the time and [then] everyone jumped on me. I was dying at the bottom of the pile. I didn’t know how much time was left on the clock. It was zero seconds.

“[It was] a pretty intense minute when they’re at the scorer’s table trying to figure out if it’s a goal or not. Then we [the ref] comes out, gestures the goal sign, it’s a pretty amazing feeling. It’s surreal right now.”

North Dakota had several opportunities to take the lead on the power play late, but the play of sophomore goaltender Adam Wilcox kept them off the board.

“I don’t know if it was just the momentum of that last puck, but I felt our momentum was very hard, very fast and a very good pace and I think the momentum was, I guess you could say, in our hands,” said junior forward Stephane Pattyn. “The puck going the other way just hit a couple of skates, hit a couple of sticks, and it was in the back of our net. There’s not much more I could say.”

It took over 50 minutes in the game for either team to score.

Minnesota was the first to get on the board thanks to junior forward Sam Warning, but North Dakota answered immediately back 32 seconds later from junior forward Connor Gaarder.

They would be the only two goals of the game until the final second, though North Dakota carried most of the play.

“They threw a lot of pressure at us,” Wilcox said. “It was really tough at times. [It] seemed like when they were missing, they [would] get the puck right back and shoot. Our defense did an unbelievable job blocking shots and boxing out … Our team did a good job of weathering the storm.”

Minnesota is playing in its first National Championship game since 2003 in Buffalo, N.Y., which also happens to be the last time they won.

They will face Union College, who is making its first appearance in the title game, and this will be only the fourth time the two teams have ever faced each other.

“We need to be cleaner in some areas on Saturday in our game,” head coach Don Lucia said. “[The win] was a sense of relief for me. This is the fourth time now, as a coach, I’ll have an opportunity to play in a national title game … I’m happy for our kids that they found a way to win the game tonight.”

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Categories: College Sports, Frozen Four, Ice Hockey, Sports

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