Bulldogs Leave St. Paul Victorious Winning Final North Star College Cup
The University of Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey team would need overtime on Saturday night to clinch its first North Star College Cup championship.
Overcoming a slow start and a 1-0 deficit to familiar face the University of St. Cloud State Huskies, senior forward Alex Iafallo would net his team leading twelfth goal of the season, 42 seconds into the final frame. Receiving a pass from linemate Adam Johnson just below the goal line, Iafallo buried the equalizer beating Huskie goaltender Jeff Smith 5-hole.
Exactly six minutes into the overtime period, senior forward Kyle Osterberg would play hero netting the championship clinching goal. Osterberg buried a rebound out front after an initial slap shot by sophomore defenseman Neal Pionk, from the left point.
"It's always a great feeling, especially when it's your last year playing," said Osterberg. "Me and the other six seniors have put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into the program and to bring something back, even just a small cup like this, is pretty special."
Freshman goaltender Hunter Miska posted a 31 save performance in the contest which earned him Most Valuable Player accolades for the tournament.
Before being able to hoist the wooden trophy, the Bulldogs had to go through former Western Collegiate Hockey Conference rival, the Minnesota Golden Gophers first.
Trailing 1-0 after a Gopher power play score five minutes into the opening period, UMD answered with three consecutive goals. The final strike and eventual game winning goal coming at the 8:34 mark of the third period when junior forward Avery Peterson scored on a breakaway to give the Bulldogs a 3-1 lead.
Keeping the Gophers at bay with a two goal cushion, the Bulldogs would have to survive an onslaught of shots from the Gophers. Peppering the UMD netminder with 22 shots in the third period, Miska turned away all but one.
The Gophers would find the back of the net with 39 seconds remaining in the game to pull within one. Net empty for the Gophers, the former No. 6 ranked team capitalized on a six-on-four man advantage following UMD’s Avery Peterson’s holding penalty with 1:10 to go.
The last minute strike would be all but too late as the Bulldogs escaped the late rush by Minnesota and secured their spot in the championship game of the final NSCC.
“It was a good win for our team and I thought our team got better as the game went on,” said UMD head coach Scott Sandelin, “I thought Hunter played great again but we spent most of the period in the box, we gave them every opportunity to get back in the game and our guys held the fort, it's a big win for our team.”
Photo courtesy of Jim Rosvold