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NCAA Tournament Northeast Regional: Minnesota Duluth Outlasts Providence

Matt Dewkett

WORCESTER, Mass. -- Two different styles, one awfully close game.

From the outset, it was certainly looking like offense was going to be hard to come by in the opener of the NCAA Northeast Regional.

And it certainly was.

Minnesota Duluth sophomore Karson Kuhlman scored 57 seconds into the second overtime, lifting the fourth-seeded Bulldogs past defending national champion Providence in the first semifinal on Friday night at DCU Center, 2-1.

"First of all, it was a real good hockey game," said Minnesota Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin, whose team has now won just four times in its last 26 overtime games. "Both teams traded chances and both goalies were good. We made the play at the end."

The play at the end, and the win, lifts the Bulldogs to 19-15-5 on the season and was the fifth in their previous six all-time meetings with PC. It marked the longest game in Northeast Region history, lasting 80 minutes and 57 seconds.

The Bulldogs had much of the push in the opening period, holding an 8-4 shots on goal count. PC junior Nick Ellis was equal to the task, pitching a 32-save shutout over the first 40 minutes of play.

"You have to work hard to get opportunities and you have to work hard to score," Sandelin said. "We just kind of stayed with it. We had some shifts where we played the way we wanted. ... When you do that, you get some momentum."

Both teams' special teams units were tested in the second period, but the scoreboard still showed zeros at the end of 40 minutes. Friar junior Conor MacPhee got the gate just 3:24 into the middle frame as he laid out Duluth's Kyle Osterberg on a heavy open ice hit.

Duluth was held off the scoreboard on the major power play, but totaled five shots on goal on its two man-up chances. The Friars were also called for a too many men on the ice penalty at 9:50.

The Bulldogs finally broke the ice 3:18 into the third period as senior Tony Cameranesi whipped a quick shot from the right side over Ellis' hip.

Friar senior Steven McParland leveled the score at the 7:22 mark, slotting home a rebound off rookie Ryan Tait's shot from between the circles. A strong breakout rush started the play for PC before McParland pushed home the second NCAA Tournament goal of his career.

Duluth pushed the pace in the first overtime period once again, holding a 13-9 shots on goal advantage.

The Friars had their chances, however, as senior Nick Saracino hit the post in the opening minutes before being stopped on the doorstep at the back half of an end-to-end rush halfway through.

"Right when they shot it, I heard the post," UMD sophomore goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo said, "and I just I just had to look into the Providence player's eyes to see where the puck was, and luckily, it wasn't in the back of the net."

It was Ellis whose 54 saves set a new regional record, but Kaskisuo was very strong between the Duluth pipes in his 19th win of the season, making 36 saves, including 11 in the second period.

In the end, it was not enough for PC. The defending national champions finish the season at 27-7-4, and it was just the way the cookie crumbled for head coach Nate Leaman and the Friars.

"It is pretty simple," Leaman said. "We didn't have our A-game tonight and we got beat by a better team. Congratulations to Duluth, and that's about it."

The Bulldogs didn't waste much time in the fifth frame as Kuhlman's 11th goal of the season beat Ellis at just under the one-minute mark. Junior defenseman Willie Raskob made a feed to Kuhlman at the top of the crease, where he redirected the puck past Ellis.

"I mean, obviously in these tight games in playoffs here, every goal is huge, but it's something that you dream about as a kid—scoring OT goals," Kuhlman said, "so it's a cool experience for sure."