FARGO, N.D. — After falling to Boston College and Boston University in NCAA tournament regionals the past two years, Alex Iafallo and his core group of seven Minnesota Duluth seniors knew they had to come back for another shot at a trip to the Frozen Four.
Thanks to sophomore forward Adam Johnson’s overtime winner Saturday night in the West Regional final, Iafallo and the Bulldogs will be there.
Johnson buried a power-play wrist shot from the right faceoff circle at 1:57 of the overtime to earn a 3-2 victory over the Boston University Terriers.
“That’s the reason we came back,” said Iafallo. “I’m just proud of the guys for sacrificing their bodies.”
Iafallo and Joey Anderson collected a goal and an assist each to help dispatch the Terriers in a stalemate of a regional final that showed each team’s fatigue from extended overtime periods on Friday.
But despite neither team controlling play for very long throughout the game, UMD (27-6-7) found a way to eke out its 13th one-goal win of the season and stayed undefeated on the season in overtime games (5-0-7).
“When you’re in a lot of those situations, you learn a lot — good and bad,” Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said. “I think this group has been in so many close games — not even just overtime games — that they believe they can win. That was the case again tonight where they found a way to win.”
The Bulldogs were able to keep a leash on the Terriers’ star-studded offense — at least, they did outside of Clayton Keller’s backhand goal off the post at 7:59 of the first and Patrick Harper’s powerful wrist shot late in the third.
A night after clamping down on Ohio State’s potent offense, the Bulldogs held the heralded Terriers (24-12-3) to 49 shot attempts and 24 shots on goal (with 17 shots blocked).
“They’re going to get chances, it’s just a matter of limiting those chances,” Sandelin said.
Iafallo tied it 1-1 at the 19:42 mark of the first by quickly skirting to the far post and beating Jake Oettinger (20 saves) on a wraparound.
After a sloppy and disjointed second period, Anderson rushed to the net and cashed in on his own rebound at 11:38 of the third. But Harper’s quick wrist shot from the right circle at 16:47 knotted it once more and set up yet another overtime.
“We were able to get out of there, 1-1, and I thought the third period we played well,” said Boston University coach David Quinn. “They got the goal to make it 2-1 and we never quit. We tied it to make it 2-2 and had some chances after that.”
After two extended overtimes Friday, the half-full arena (announced as a sellout with many no-show North Dakota fans) wasn’t sure how long this episode of déjà vu would last. But 18 seconds after Bobo Carpenter was whistled for tripping in the neutral zone 1:39 into the overtime, Johnson ended it.
He walked the puck from the blue line, maneuvered past Doyle Somerby to the right slot and fired a shot that sailed through traffic and over Oettinger’s shoulder, sending the Bulldogs contingent both on the ice and off it into bedlam.
“I saw an opening,” he said. “I just tried to fake a shot and get [Somerby] to bite and shoot it by him, and I found the corner. It’s a good feeling and I’m happy for the guys to get the win.”
Sandelin added what many in the arena were thinking.
“It was awesome to see it go in quick,” he said. “Who knows how long that game could have gone on.”