ST. PAUL, Minn. -- In the crazy world that is postseason hockey, North Dakota suffered heartbreaking overtime loss on Friday yet remained alive in its chase for a 16th straight NCAA Tournament berth.
St. Cloud State’s Nick Poehling scored 1:47 into overtime to lift the Huskies to a 3-2 victory over North Dakota in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinals, a game that had significant national tournament ramifications for the Fighting Hawks.
However, enough things broke North Dakota’s away in other games around the nation on Friday – including a Clarkson overtime win over Harvard – that the Fighting Hawks still had a shot to secure an at-large berth for the national tournament.
UND will play in Saturday afternoon’s NCHC Frozen Faceoff third-place game against either Denver and Minnesota Duluth, who faced off in the second of two semifinals on Friday. Amazingly, scenarios remain in play where UND can stay alive with a win, loss or tie.
“We’re coming back tomorrow to battle, to win one game tomorrow and to get some help around the nation,” said UND head coach Brad Berry. “We’ve done it all year, scratch and claw, and we’re going to continue to do it.”
It was no surprise UND found itself in overtime on Friday, for it was a school-record 15th extra-session game this season for the Fighting Hawks, four shy of the NCAA record. UND freshman forward Jordan Kawaguchi had forced the fourth period when his power-play goal midway through the third period tied the game at 2-2.
Kawaguchi finished off a pretty passing play with Trevor Olson and Nick Jones with a wrister from the slot that beat SCSU goalie David Hrenak, his fifth goal of the year coming with 10:10 left in regulation.
But Poehling pounced on a UND turnover in the defensive zone less than two minutes into overtime and lifted a shot over the glove of Cam Johnson – who was spectacular with 31 saves, 26 of them coming into the second and third overtime.
The Huskies opened the scoring just 5:54 into the game when defenseman Jack Ahcan set up Patrick Newell alone in the slot for his sixth goal of the year.
UND’s Nick Jones and SCSU’s Easton Brodzinski traded goals in the opening six minutes of the second period, sending the Huskies into the second intermission with a 2-1 lead.
The Huskies outshot the Fighting Hawks 34-23 while North Dakota won the faceoff battle 36-29.
Hrenak finished with 21 saves for his 14th win of the year.
Saturday’s third-place game is set for 3:38 p.m. Central.
Notes: Poehling, Brodzinski and Olson (2 assists) were named the game’s three stars … Jones has figured in on UND’s last four goals, scoring three of them and assisting on one … Junior defenseman Hayden Shaw played in his 99th career game … Rhett Gardner went 21-11 on faceoffs to lead all players ... The announced single-session attendance of 11,983 was the largest in NCHC Frozen Faceoff history.