Potential Dream Season for North Dakota Comes Up Short
by David Eckert/CHN Reporter
Over an hour after an offside review gave it new life, North Dakota watched its national title dream crumble for a second time.
There would be no salvation as there was before. This one was real.
Luke Mylymok’s wrist shot traveled through the legs of Jacob Bernard-Docker and past goaltender Adam Scheel, to finish a 142-minute, 13-second marathon that culminated in the fifth overtime with a 3-2 Minnesota-Duluth victory, sending the Bulldogs to the Frozen Four and sending the Fighting Hawks home.
“At the end of the day, we wanted to go to the national championship,” North Dakota senior captain Jordan Kawaguchi said. “I don’t think we really needed to have anything else to push us.
“We pretty much just played two games in one night. Emotions are all over the place. I really can’t put a lot into words right now.”
To North Dakota fans, the result might seem like a cruel twist of fate to a plot that seemed destined to go in their favor.
The Fighting Hawks had rallied for a pair of extra-attacker goals in the game’s final 1:41 to tie the game and send it to overtime — one goal banked off Bulldogs goalie Zach Stejskal by Collin Adams, the other left on a platter for Kawaguchi on the doorstep.
For anyone who subscribes to the idea of momentum in sports, that’s the textbook definition. But North Dakota never capitalized.
“It’s one of those things, we made a couple of plays at the end to tie it up and it was very unfortunate to not have the result that we wanted to,” North Dakota head coach Brad Berry said. “That goes to show you that down two goals late in the game, our guys never thought we were out of the game. There was always a push-back, a resolve.”
That tenacity sent the game to overtime, where — rather quickly — it seemed like the fight back was for naught.
Kobe Roth sent the Bulldogs into delirium with a goal that was eventually ruled out for offside, not unlike what happened to the Fighting Hawks in the 2017 Fargo Regional, when their overtime winner against Boston University in the very same building was ruled offside after a review.
Charlie McAvoy won that game for the Terriers after they were granted a second life. If that had banked any karma for the Fighting Hawks four years later, they didn’t make it count.
“There was a full gamut of emotions through the whole game,” Berry said. “You tie it up with two extra-attacker goals, they score one that it’s like our season ended, and then they go to a video review and it’s like we have another life and you’ve got to compose yourself again, players and coaches.”
Berry said he thought the emotion of the moment gave the Fighting Hawks a boost, but they couldn’t turn that into something tangible.
They hit the post three different times within the five overtime frames. They outshot the Bulldogs 65-54 for the game. Still, in nearly three hours of action, they never led.
“We had enough chances to win the game, whether it’s pipes or rushes or in-zone to win the game, we just didn’t capitalize on it,” Berry said.
The Fighting Hawks cruised through their regular season schedule, winning the NCHC regular season title comfortably and securing the conference’s playoff title as well.
But no member of their roster had ever played an NCAA Tournament game before the Fighting Hawks’ comfortable 5-1 victory over AIC on Friday. Against the Bulldogs, who are heading to their fourth-consecutive Frozen Four in search of a third-straight title, North Dakota could never quite make the decisive play.
“I thought we played well,” Kawaguchi said. “They’re a good team, we’re a good team. Just two great teams going at it. The score reflected it and the overall game reflected it.”