The opening game of the inaugural North Star College Cup was a wild affair. Minnesota State head coach Mike Hastings said it felt like whichever team got the puck on their stick last would win, and that team was Minnesota-Duluth. Freshman forward Alex Iafallo deposited a rebound goal with just 26.5 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Bulldogs a 5-4 victory and a spot in tomorrow's championship game, where they will face the winner of Minnesota and St. Cloud State.
It was a less than stellar effort for both goal tenders, with both showing nerves in giving up soft goals to start the game. With the score tied at three heading into the third period, Minnesota State took the lead on a Zach Lehrke shorthanded goal, but then gave up a shorthanded goal of their own, when goalie Cole Huggins couldn't control a shot that hit him in the stomach, and Kyle Osterberg picked up the rebound for a goal.
The game appeared headed to a shootout until Minnesota State's Brett Stern took a boarding penalty with 1:22 left in overtime, and Duluth was able to capitalize on the ensuing power play.
The win moves Minnesota-Duluth's overall record to 10-9-2, while Minnesota State drops to 14-11-0 on the season. Minnesota State will play in tomorrow's consolation game against the loser of the second tonight, while Duluth will play for the title.
Here's the final scoring from tonight's game:
7:28- Andy Welinski unassisted 1-0 Minnesota-Duluth
Welinski fired a slap shot from the point that beat Huggins for the goal.
10:25 Johnny McInnis from Dylan Margonari 1-1 tie
McInnis threw the puck towards the net from behind the goal line in the right corner. The puck deflected off the stick of goalie Aaron Crandall and into the back of the net.
14:25 Matt Leitner from Jean-Paul LaFontaine and Josh Nelson (power play) 2-1 Minnesota State
With the man advantage, Leitner fired a wrist shot from the right point. Crandall was screened on the shot and never saw the puck as it went over his left shoulder and into the net.
3:49 Austin Farley from Dom Toninato and Alex Iafallo (power play) 2-2 tie
Iafallo won the face-off cleanly back to Toninato who fired a quick shot that was headed wide, but the shot deflected off Farley's skate and into the net.
10:27- Adam Krause from Adam Iafallo and Andy Welinski 3-2 UMD
An MSU defenseman lost an edge behind the net, allowing Iafallo to pick up the puck and feed it to the crease, where Krause one-timed the puck past Huggins.
16:58 Jean-Paul LaFontaine from Zach Lehrke and Johnny McInnis (power play) 3-3 tie
Lehrke fired a shot from the point through traffic that hit the post and rebounded off Crandall. As a UMD defender tried to clear the puck off the goal line, the puck was knocked backwards. The goal was initially waved off by the officials, but after going to video review, they determined the puck crossed the goal line and awarded them the goal.
6:53 Zach Lehrke from Zach Palmquist (shorthanded) 4-3 Minnesota State
Minnesota State had to kill off 9 seconds of 5-on-3. Palmquist blocked a shot and gained control of the puck right as Lehrke was coming out of the penalty box to end the first MSU penalty. Palmquist fed Lehrke who came in all alone on a breakaway, and made a slick move before sliding the puck between the legs of Crandall for the goal.
10:12 Kyle Osterberg unassisted (shorthanded) 4-4 tie
Osterberg skated down the left wing and fired a shot into the stomach of Huggins. Huggins lost control of the rebound and Osterberg picked it up and scored on the rebound.
4:34 Alex Iafallo from Tony Cameranesi and Austin Farley (power play) 5-4 UMD wins
Off a mad scramble in front of the net, the puck popped out to Iafallo on the left side of the net and he buried the rebound for the game-winner.
-Minnesota State's woes at the XCel Energy Center--they still have never won a game here in program history--continued, and as with most of their previous losses, shaky goal tending was the main culprit. Mike Hastings reiterated multiple times after the game how well Huggins has played for Minnesota State this year, carrying more than his fair share of the weight, and that he just had a bad game tonight.
-The shorthanded goal for Minnesota-Duluth's fourth goal was particularly a game-changer. The Mavericks caught a huge break when they hit Zach Lehrke coming out of the penalty box for a breakaway goal to take the lead. The give that lead up less than four minutes later, and while on a power play, really took a lot of the momentum away from the Mavericks.
-Aaron Crandall recovered pretty nicely from a shaky start, giving up two goals on his first three shots. The first goal, with Minnesota-Duluth leading 1-0, was especially soft. Here's the goal in GIF form via the great CJ Fogler. Yeah, Crandall would definitely like that one back. But from that point on, he made a couple big, timely saves that helped keep Minnesota-Duluth in the game.
-After the game, both Minnesota-Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin and Alex Iafallo mentioned what a crazy game it was in terms of bouncing pucks. Sandelin mentioned the difficulty his team had with pucks jumping over sticks, especially on the power play. That lack of crispness on the power play was counter-acted by what Iafallo describe as a lot of weird goals, with pucks going into the net off deflections.
-Minnesota State caught a big break late in the second period when they got a power play goal from Jean-Paul LaFontaine that just barely crossed the line. Here's a GIF of the play, again courtesy of CJ Fogler. The puck has to be 100% across the goal line, and by that standard, that play is very, very close. I would have bet on the call on the ice standing due to an inconclusive replay, but can see it either way.
-Both coaches were in almost exact concert on the flow of the game, with both giving the edge to Minnesota-Duluth in the first period, with Minnesota State playing much better early in the second period, and then Minnesota-Duluth controlling the final ten minutes of the game.
-A lack of depth really seemed to hurt Minnesota State here with Teddy Blueger and Zach Stepan both missing the game due to their game disqualifications. Minnesota State had to pare down to three lines in the third period, with what is essentially their fourth line getting third line minutes.
-Minnesota-Duluth, to their credit, got very solid play from all three of their top three lines which created mismatches in their favor all night long. Minnesota State's defense struggled to contain the speed of Kyle Osterberg and Tony Cameranesi all night, and Austin Farley on the second line, and Alex Iafallo on the third line were dangerous scoring threats all night long. On defense, freshman Carson Soucy really exceeded my expectations, and his D partner Andy Welinski was solid as always. The Bulldogs continue to look like a team that is just("just") a really solid goaltender away from being a very good team.