UMD men's hockey: Bulldogs beat North Dakota in longest NCAA tournament game ever to reach fourth-straight Frozen Four

Matt Wellens, Duluth News Tribune, Minn.
·7 min read

Mar. 28—FARGO, N.D. — Freshman wing Luke Mylymok sent Minnesota Duluth to the NCAA Frozen Four for a fourth consecutive season early Sunday morning, scoring unassisted 2:13 into the fifth overtime to give the Bulldogs a 3-2 victory over top overall seed and NCHC-rival North Dakota in a historic NCAA regional final that began on Saturday at Scheels Arena.

It was the longest NCAA tournament game in the history of the men's or women's hockey tournaments, clocking in at 142 minutes, 13 seconds. The game started at 6:30 p.m. Central Time on Saturday and ended at 12:42 a.m. on Sunday.

"Unbelievable game," said Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin. "North Dakota shows their resolve, comes back, ties it. Then we play a marathon overtime and we get a big goal from a freshman that got some ice time later in the overtimes. I couldn't be more proud of this group. I thought our guys played great. It was a great hockey game too. Two good teams going at it. We got the fortunate break and the goal. Thank God it ended."

The Bulldogs are the first team to reach four national semifinals in a row since North Dakota from 2005-08. The defending back-to-back national champions from 2018 and 2019 — COVID-19 wiped out the 2020 tournament — UMD extended its NCAA tournament winning streak to nine games with its fourth-straight regional title.

Mylymok secured that win Sunday morning by using a North Dakota defender as a screen rushing into the opposing zone. He fired the game-winner, just his second goal of the season, through the five-hole of North Dakota goaltender Adam Scheel.

"You look around the room and they're all national champions, besides the sophomores, and from what I watched last year, they could have been national champions," Mylymok said about getting his teammates to another Frozen Four. "That's all they know is Frozen Fours and winning those games. To be a part of that game and take them to that tournament, is just unbelievable. They're all pumped. That's their home, the Bulldog home."

The Bulldogs originally appeared to end the regional final 7:33 into the first overtime — or at 9:30 p.m. CT — when junior wings Koby Bender and Kobe Roth connected on the rush with Bender feeding Roth backdoor for what was thought to be the game-winner. The goal was reviewed and Bender was deemed offside on the zone entry when he reached back for the puck.

North Dakota, the NCHC regular and postseason champions, scored a pair of extra-attacker goals in the final two minutes of regulation to erase a 2-0 deficit and force overtime on Saturday.

Senior center Collin Adams, who nearly scored in the opening seconds of the game, bounced a puck from behind the net and in off UMD freshman goaltender Zach Stejskal to get the Hawks on the scoreboard.

Senior wing Jordan Kawaguchi tied the game with 55.6 seconds left, scoring on an open net after the puck bounced right to him.

"I thought we played well. They're a good team, we're a good team, just two great teams going at it," Kawaguchi said. "The score reflected it, the overall game reflected it. Either team could have won tonight, it just happened they did."

A pair of fortunate bounces 80 seconds apart helped the Bulldogs break open a scoreless game early in the third period.

A shot by junior defenseman Hunter Lellig bounced off junior center Jackson Cates and over the right shoulder of North Dakota goaltender Adam Scheel — who never saw the puck coming — 3:21 into the third for the first goal of the game.

A blocked shot and broken stick then sprung junior wing Cole Koepke free for a solo breakaway that he finished to make it 2-0 Bulldogs with 15:19 to play in the third period.

"I consider this probably the national championship game," North Dakota coach Brad Berry said. "The two teams, how hard they battle, there is a reason the NCHC is as good as it is."

The Bulldogs started Stejskal on Saturday in Fargo, giving the Cohasset native out of Grand Rapids High School just his eighth start of the season and first action since playing in the final two regular season games against St. Cloud State on Feb. 27 and March 6. He entered the postseason with a 1.98 goals against average and .923 in the first seven starts of his rookie year, with UMD going 4-3 in those games.

Stejskal finished with 57 saves on 59 shots, having to leave the game injured after 124 minutes and 37 seconds. He was helped off the ice and back to the locker room with 15:23 to go in the fourth overtime.

Stejskal was relieved by Bulldogs sophomore Ryan Fanti, who started 19 games this season for UMD, including the 5-4 overtime win over Western Michigan and 3-2 loss to SCSU at the NCHC Frozen Faceoff in Grand Forks, North Dakota, earlier this month. The Thunder Bay, Ontario, native came into the NCAA tournament with a 2.40 GAA and .905 save percentage.

Fanti finished with six saves on six shots in 17:36 of relief work.

"The best part is we have two that can go in there and win games for us, and you saw that tonight," Sandelin said of his goaltenders. "I thought Zach played great for us tonight."

— UMD men's hockey: Bulldogs advance to regional final after Michigan withdraws due to COVID-19

— UMD men's hockey: Instead of a regional showdown with Michigan, Bulldogs settle for a practice Friday in Fargo

— UMD men's hockey: Defending champion Bulldogs stand in the way of North Dakota's NCAA title aspirations

UMD is in its sixth consecutive NCAA tournament this year and was playing in its sixth consecutive regional final Saturday and Sunday in Fargo.

During that run of six straight NCAA tournament appearances, UMD has played an OT game now in the last five tournaments. Saturday was their sixth overtime NCAA tournament game in the last five tournaments — all wins.

Both of UMD's regional games in Fargo in 2017 went to overtime, with UMD beat both Ohio State and Boston University 3-2 to reach the Frozen Four in Chicago.

The last multiple overtime game for the Bulldogs in the NCAA tournament was March 25, 2016, when they beat defending national champion Providence 2-1 in the regional semifinals in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The previous high for overtimes in a game for UMD was the 5-4 four-overtime loss to Bowling Green State in the 1984 NCAA championship, though OTs were only 10 minutes back then.

Koepke admitted in the postgame Sunday morning he wasn't exactly sure how many periods the team played Saturday and into Sunday.

"Right now it's hard to comprehend what that game was," Koepke said. "That was a game we'll remember for ever and ever."

Boxscore

Minnesota Duluth 0-0-2-0-0-0-0-1—3

North Dakota 0-0-2-0-0-0-0-0—2

First period

No scoring.

Second period

No scoring

Third period

1. UMD, Jackson Cates 11 (Hunter Lellig, Koby Bender), 3:21

2. UMD, Cole Koepke 14, 4:41

3. ND, Collin Adams 14 (Jasper Weatherby, Shane Pinto), 18:19 (ea)

4. ND, Jordan Kawaguchi 10 (Pinto, Matt Kiersted), 19:03 (ea)

First overtime

No scoring

Second overtime

No scoring

Third overtime

No scoring

Fourth overtime

No scoring

Fifth overtime

5. UMD, Luke Mylymok 2, 2:13

Saves — Zach Stejskal, UMD, 12-8-7-9-8-9-4-X—57; Ryan Fanti, UMD, X-X-X-X-X-X-4-2—6; Adam Scheel, ND, 8-9-2-10-6-5-10-1—51.

Power plays — UMD 0-3; ND 0-3. Penalties — UMD 3-6; ND 3-6.

This story was updated at 4:19 a.m. March 28 with comments from the Bulldogs and Fighting Hawks players and coaches. It was originally posted at 1:01 a.m. March 28.