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There were many things that set this NCAA regional game apart from any of the other eight national tournament games St. Cloud State had played in before.
Perhaps it was the fact that the Huskies drew a region berth in a location west of Lake Michigan and in the Central Time Zone for the first time in school history. But when No. 2 seed St. Cloud State met third-seeded Northern Michigan in the first round Friday at the Xcel Energy Center, the result was the biggest difference.
For the first time in eight tries, SCSU won a national tournament game — 4-3 in double-overtime — ending a skid that started in 1989.
“It’s huge to get the monkey off our back,” said Huskies forward Tony Mosey, who scored the game-winner 23 seconds into the second OT. “We had a few power plays in the first overtime and we were bound to put one in.”
It was a centering pass from Garrett Roe from the right circle that Mosey tapped through NMU goaltender Brian Stewart’s pads on the power play.
For SCSU coach Bob Motzko, he was tired of the 0-8 talk but was excited to get the first win for the program.
“This team is 0-0 [at the NCAA tournament] so we had to separate that,” Motzko said. “It’s great for our program. It was a crazy hockey game. We’ve been building for five years.”
Motzko coached the Huskies in two of the losses — a 4-1 defeat against Maine in 2007 and a 2-1 loss to Clarkson in 2008.
Ryan Lasch played in those games, both out east in Rochester and Albany, N.Y., and said it was nice to finally play a tournament game just an hour from St. Cloud.
“When we saw the selection show, we were excited to play [at the Xcel],” said Lasch, who scored the Huskies’ second goal Friday. “We’re familiar with the venue and our fan support was great. The fans were on our side this year and it helped us.”
The win certainly didn’t come easy for SCSU, but everything seemed to be going the Huskies’ way midway through the first period.
Drew LeBlanc centered the puck to Travis Novak, who one-timed it past Stewart at 8:14 of the first period to put the Huskies on the board.
Lasch tapped in his 20th goal of the season on a rebound at 12:25 on the power play.
The Wildcats made it 2-1 at 14:04, 48 seconds after Nick Olsund went to the SCSU penalty box for hooking. Justin Florek was finally able to put the puck past Lee after the Huskies goalie stop two shots with a crowd in front of him.
It was the only the second time in school history that the Huskies held a first-period lead in an NCAA tournament game. SCSU had a one-goal lead over Maine for less than four minutes in the 2007 East Regional.
SCSU made it 3-1 when Lasch carried the puck around the NMU net to Stewart’s right and fed Garrett Roe at the left circle, and Roe beat Stewart high glove side 7:08 into the second period. It was Roe’s 20th goal of the season and SCSU’s second power-play goal of the game.
The Huskies finished 3-for-7 on the man advantage and NMU, which has the nation’s best combined special teams at 56 percent, went 1-for-5.
After the first period in which the Huskies outshot NMU 17-6, the Wildcats came back with 13-6 and 14-8 shot advantages in the second in third periods, respectively.
“We’ve been a resilient team all season,” Northern Michigan coach Walt Kyle said. “We haven’t been afraid to play from behind.”
The Huskies held a 3-1 lead late in the second period when the Wildcats’ Ray Kaunusto scored his 18th goal of the season to cut the deficit to one. He sent the puck from the right circle to the crease, where it deflected off Taylor Johnson’s skate and into the net at 16:12.
Erik Spady tied the game with a shot from the point that found its way through traffic with 3:49 left in regulation.
“There was a lot of traffic out front,” Spady said. “I had a good screen and just tried to get it past the first two guys.”
Both teams had their chances in the first OT. SCSU’s Garrett Roe had his breakaway attempt broken up by a NMU backchecker four minutes into OT and Huskies goalie Mike Lee stopped Andrew Cherniwchan with a toe save minutes later.
Stewart finished with 50 saves and Lee had 42.
Huskies freshman David Eddy was hauled down by Spady when he went in all alone late in OT. Aaron Marvin missed a shot wide right of the goal as the power play expired.
A late holding call against NMU’s Tyler Gron gave the Huskies 1:17 of power play heading into the second OT.
“We had the momentum,” Roe said. “We were getting pucks to the net and the [defense] wasn’t spending too much time in our zone.”