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Oh my! Bulldogs beat Princeton in OT; Frozen Four is one win away

MINNEAPOLIS -- The most talked-about game in Minnesota Duluth men's hockey history has been a four-overtime loss to Bowling Green in the 1984 NCAA Division I title game in Lake Placid, N.Y.

That game now has a challenger.

Something akin to a miracle took place Friday night as UMD rallied with two goals in the last 40 seconds of the third period and another in overtime to defeat Princeton University 5-4 in the NCAA West Regional semifinals at Mariucci Arena. The No. 7-ranked Bulldogs (22-12-8) advance to face No. 13 Miami of Ohio (21-12-5) in today's 8 p.m. title game (ESPNU) for a chance to go to the Frozen Four.

A howling crowd of 7,197 spectators, overwhelmingly in UMD's favor, could hardly contain itself after the dramatic finish to regulation play and following overtime when freshman winger Mike Connolly had nearly a tap-in of a Justin Fontaine pass to beat one of the best goalies in Division I, Princeton junior Shane Kalemba, with 6:37 left in a 20-minute sudden death period.

"We knew we could do it. Even though time was ticking down [in the third period], we kept believing," said UMD senior winger Andrew Carroll, who had the game's first goal. "That's the best game I've ever played in; the best game I've ever seen."

On the opening day of NCAA play, UMD was the only top seed to survive. Losing out in the first round were No. 3 Denver, No. 4 Michigan and No. 5 Yale. Miami eliminated Denver 4-2 in the first West Regional game at Mariucci.

And UMD was in serious trouble after allowing a short-handed goal by Princeton captain Brandan Kushiniruk halfway through the third period. The Tigers of Princeton, N.J., and the Eastern College Athletic Conference were up 4-2.

"Our bench kept saying, 'It's not done. It's not done. We can do it. We can do it.' Some of that is will, some of it is luck," UMD coach Scott Sandelin said.

With 1:05 to go, the least-penalized team in Division I took a high-sticking penalty. UMD had not been sharp in going 0-for-4 with a man-advantage, but connected with 39.4 seconds left in regulation. Star goalie Alex Stalock had already been pulled for an extra attacker with 1:58 to go, so the Bulldogs were skating 6-on-4 when freshman winger Jack Connolly finished a nice-passing play right in front Kalemba, a Hobey Baker Memorial Award finalist. His 10th goal of the season got UMD within 4-3.

Stalock stayed on the bench.

UMD applied serious pressure as the final seconds ticked off and ultimately, Oberg, at the lower half of the right faceoff circle, smacked a shot that found the net with 0:00.8 left on the clock.

"There were a couple of bodies in front and I just shot and it either went over [Kalemba's] glove or under it," said Oberg. "That was the biggest game of any of our lives. None of us have ever been in this situation before."

UMD, making its first NCAA appearance since 2004, had tied the game and the noise in the rink was ridiculous. The teams then had to take a deep breath and regain their composure as the ice was resurfaced.

"It was almost like we had won the game, so you didn't want them too high," Sandelin said.

The two evenly matched teams continued to go toe-to-toe even in sudden death, Princeton had nine shots on goal and UMD eight, with the Bulldogs finishing with a 35-31 edge. The Bulldogs got an opening on a Princeton tripping penalty at 6:37 into the extra period and needed just 16 seconds of the power play. The play, similar to the Jack Connolly goal, was a slick exchange from Oberg to winger Justin Fontaine to Mike Connolly at the crease for something close to a tap-in. The Western Collegiate Hockey Association all-rookie team player from Calgary, Alberta, earned his 13th goal of the season and the noise resumed.

It was a terribly difficult moment for Princeton, trying to win its first NCAA game in its third appearance.

"Those were two pretty even teams and we played a good game, and we came extremely close to winning a big game," said Princeton coach Guy Gadowski. "It took two pretty special goals to tie it up."

It was the second excruciating defeat in one week for Princeton, which led Cornell 3-1 with less than nine minutes to play in the ECAC semifinals before losing 4-3 in double-overtime in Albany, N.Y. Cornell tied the game with 25 seconds left in the third period.

Stalock was coming off back-to-back shutouts, a first in the school's 48 years and 1,781 games, as UMD stopped North Dakota and Denver to win the WCHA Final Five title.

Stalock, a junior from South St. Paul, broke his own school scoreless streak in the first period before Princeton tied the score 1-1. The record now is 147 minutes, 45 seconds, beating the mark of 137:37 set in January of 2008.

After Princeton went up 3-1, it took 11 seconds for UMD freshman defenseman Brady Lamb to answer, taking a Drew Akins centering draw in the offensive zone and driving home the puck for his first collegiate goal to get UMD within 3-2 at 8:39 of the second period.

Princeton.....................1-2-1-0--4

Minnesota Duluth............1-1-2-1--5

First period -- 1. UMD, Andrew Carroll 5 (Travis Oleksuk, Michael Gergen), 8:17; 2. Princeton, Brett Wilson 11 (Matt Godlewski), 14:56 (pp). Penalties -- Mark Magnowksi, Princeton (interference), 3:56; Jack Connolly, UMD (tripping), 13:51.

Second period -- 3. Princeton, Derrick Pallis 3 (Dan Bartlett, Cam MacIntyre), 1:42; 4. Princeton, Wilson 12 (Godlewski, Brad Schroeder), 8:50; 5. UMD, Brady Lamb 1 (Drew Akins), 8:39. Penalty -- Taylor Fedun, Princeton (holding), 19:56.

Third period -- 6. Princeton, Brandan Kushniruk 7, 9:21 (sh); 7. UMD, Jack Connolly 10 (MacGregor Sharp, Mike Connolly), 19:20; 8. UMD, Evan Oberg 7 (Sharp, M. Connolly), 19:59. Penalties -- Akins, UMD (tripping), 3;14; Fedun, Princeton (tripping), 5:24; Sam Sabky, Princeton 9hooking), 8:08; Godlewski, Princeton (high sticking), 18:55.

Overtime -- 9. UMD, M. Connolly (Justin Fontaine, Oberg), 13:39. Penalty -- MacIntyre, Princeton (tripping), 13:23.

Shots on goal -- Princeton 9-10-3-9-31, UMD 13-6-8-8-35. Goalies -- Zane Kalemba (22-10-1), Princeton (35 shots-30 saves); Alex Stalock (22-12-8), UMD (31 shots-27 saves). Power plays -- Princeton 1-of-2, UMD 2-of-6. Referees -- Matt Chigas, Steve Makinchuck. Linesmen -- Tony Malina, T.J. Likits. A -- 7,187.

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