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ST. PAUL, Minn. — Ferris State blew a two-goal lead during Saturday’s NCAA West Regional semifinal, but at the end of the day it used an opportunistic offense to knock off the region’s top seed.
Ferris State defeated St. Cloud State 5-4 in overtime at the Xcel Energy Center.
NCAA West Regional
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VanWormer didn’t miss, and sent the Bulldogs to Sunday’s regional championship game with his game-winning goal, which came 18 seconds into overtime.
“I got it with a lot of speed, because it was kind of a broken play,” Mayhew said of the series of events that led to the end of the game. “So I took it over the blue line and the D kind of stepped up, so I tried to make a move and luckily it worked. I got free and I put it on net, I heard [VanWormer] screaming for it at the last second, so I could have probably slid it over to him for a better goal. It hit it off the goalie’s paddle right to him and he buried it.”
While it may not seem so with nine goals being scored in the game, both goaltenders made numerous saves that prevented the number of goals scored from reaching double digits.
“I felt we had a good chance of winning … but I would never have guessed 5-4,” Ferris State coach Bob Daniels said after the game. “I thought [goaltender] Darren Smith played really well. … He really was solid tonight.”
Ferris State scored early and late in the first period and took a 2-1 lead into the locker room after 20 minutes.
Mitch Maloney opened the scoring at the 2:56 mark of the first period when he poked a rebound past St. Cloud’s Lindgren to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead.
The lead was short-lived, as SCSU’s Jacob Benson tipped a goal of his own past Smith 17 second later and tied the game.
With 23 seconds remaining in the first, two St. Cloud defensemen collided as Ferris State entered its offensive zone. The collision allowed Trevor Recktenwald to spring VanWormer on a short breakaway. He beat Lindgren on his blocker side to reestablish Ferris State’s lead.
Kenny Babinski extended Ferris State’s lead to 3-1 early in the second period when he came up the right wing and snuck a shot past Lindgren near the far post.
SCSU coach Bob Motzko said that the Bulldogs’ third goal was one the goaltender would have liked to have back, but stood up for Lindgren at the postgame news conference.
“He’s a rock,” Motzko said. “He wants that third one back. I know that, he knows it. I tell you what, we don’t doubt that kid. What he means to us and we believe in that kid. That’s the truth.”
St. Cloud State cut the lead back down to one goal near the five-minute mark of the second period with its potent power play providing the spark. Freshman Mikey Eyssimont gained possession of the puck near the half wall on Smith’s left, skated the puck into the slot and beat the goaltender on his blocker side to score his 13th goal of the season, which was one for his highlight reel.
Mayhew reestablished the Bulldogs’ two-goal lead with about eight minutes remaining in the second. A puck from behind the net found its way to Mayhew in the high slot; the junior patiently waited for Lindgren to make his move in net and launched a wrist shot by him.
After the goal, Ferris State switched into a noticeably defensive mode. It worked, for a little bit.
Eyssimont scored his second goal of the game, again on the power play, with around 15 minutes remaining in the third to cut Ferris State’s lead back down to one goal. Joey Benik played the puck from Smith’s right-hand side off the back boards and it found a wide-open Eyssimont, who was waiting at the back door.
Daniels said that St. Cloud’s familiarity with the Xcel Energy Center’s lively boards showed in its third goal, but added that his team was familiar with the arena’s boards thanks to last year’s WCHA Final Five.
Benik tied the game with eight and a half minutes left in the third when he corralled a loose puck in the slot and rifled it past Smith. Jimmy Murray attempted a shot on net that was partially blocked by a Ferris State defender but landed right on Benik’s tape.
From there, the fireworks escalated. Ferris State had multiple chances to regain the lead right after St. Cloud tied the game, including an Andrew Mayer breakaway. Lindgren, who had a relatively quiet second half of the game but played well, stood tall.
Minutes later, St. Cloud’s Judd Peterson rang a shot off the crossbar. Eyssimont had an open net to work with as time expired, but was unable to control or redirect a one-time pass with a lot of pace.
The momentum and the fan support were all on St. Cloud’s side, but a go-ahead goal wasn’t in the cards. Motzko said mistakes doomed his squad.
“Four turnovers [and] they scored four goals,” he said. “We had a number of chances where we could have taken that thing. We got our crowd in and we got the momentum back and we make a mistake there.
“In overtime in the NCAA [tournament], it’s a one-shot deal,” Motzko added. “It rips your heart out. There is no other way to analyze it. We can’t make the mistakes we made early in the game.”
Daniels and VanWormer said the mood in the locker room was great after the third period, despite the blown lead. Daniels said he was relieved that Ferris State wrapped it up early in the overtime period.
“There is a lot of relief, no question about it,” he said. “And then there’s a moment, because I’ve been on the other side of that, where you feel for the other guys.”