In winning five straight home playoff series since 1998, Minnesota Duluth was taken to a deciding game four times.
The Bulldogs were seeking a quicker finish to a best-of-three Western Collegiate Hockey Association men’s meeting with Minnesota State-Mankato on Saturday night at Amsoil Arena.
No. 3-ranked UMD opened with a win Friday and had a chance to end the series in the rematch. The Bulldogs did close the deal and closed the home season in dramatic fashion as winger Mike Seidel scored 4:07 into a second 20-minute overtime to eliminate Mankato 3-2 before 5,346 jubilant fans.
The Bulldogs (24-8-6) advance to the WCHA Final Five semifinals at 2:07 p.m. Friday at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center to face a team to be determined in Thursday’s two quarterfinal games.
“Both teams had so many chances and Kenny (UMD goalie Kenny Reiter) made so many unbelievable saves. And we got some big (shot) blocks from Keegan (Flaherty) and Jack (Connolly) in overtime,” said Seidel. “We were stressing going to the net. We knew it wouldn’t necessarily be a pretty goal.
“We had to kill part of a penalty at the end of the first overtime and at the start of the second, and we said, ‘If we kill this, we’re going to win.’ ”
Mankato (12-24-2) did have a power play for the last 1:09 of the first OT and the first 51 seconds of the second. The Mavericks had a bundle of chances with the man advantage, but the Bulldogs held them off. Then Connolly started the winning play, getting the puck to Flaherty on the right side and he cracked a shot that went off goalie Austin Lee’s stick. He tried to lift the puck up and away, but instead the puck stayed low and went straight to Seidel on the left side.
Seidel’s 15th goal of the season came as he had much of the net wide open. It was UMD’s 59th shot on goal. Mankato had 49 in what was a tremendously exciting up-and-down game. And it was reminiscent of UMD’s three-overtime 3-2 win to close out St. Cloud State last year in the same round. This time it took 84 minutes, 7 seconds to complete and UMD had a sixth playoff series victory in the last six chances at home.
“Mankato really played well for two nights, and we just wanted to end this tonight. It was great for our confidence,” said Flaherty. “Overall we played well and found another way to win.”
The 47 saves equaled Reiter’s career most (and gave him 51 victories) and Lee’s 56 saves were the most by a goalie in Mankato’s Division I era.
The Bulldogs are 6-1-2 the last nine games overall and, against Mankato are 13-1-2 the past five years in the series and 9-0-1 against the Mavericks in Duluth since 2006.
A skating first period favored UMD 15-11 in shots on goal, but Mankato led 1-0 on freshman center Matt Leitner’s power-play goal from the slot with 55 seconds left.
“It was an unbelievable hockey game. We had chances, lots of them,” said Mankato coach Troy Jutting.
The only goal of the second period tied the game 1-1 with 6:15 remaining. Senior right winger David Grun got the puck in the slot and beat Lee with a wrist shot inside the right pipe. It was Grun’s third goal of the season and 12th of his career.
In the third period, Mankato went up 2-1 on defenseman Tyler Elbrecht’s shot from the slot following a UMD giveaway at 3:54. UMD tied it 7:02 as goal-scoring leader J.T. Brown let loose from high in the slot on a power play. He has 23 goals this season and 39 in 78 career games. UMD led 40-30 in shots on goal after regulation play.
“We played with a lot of heart and we were playing a team that didn’t want its season to end. It was just a great game in a great series,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “We needed a bounce at the end and got a nice goal to end it.”
The Mavericks were 0-5-1 the last six games overall and 0-5-1 against UMD this season, being outscored 27-15.
The game was the last at home for six UMD seniors — forwards Connolly, Travis Oleksuk and Grun; defensemen Brady Lamb and Scott Kishel; and Reiter. They are a combined 94-48-21 the last four years.
UMD eliminated St. Cloud State in two straight games to open the league playoffs last season at Amsoil Arena.
UMD’s first full season at Amsoil Arena stood at 14-5-1, the best record since going 14-8 in 2009-10 and 15-5 in 2003-04.
Minn. State-Mankato… 1-0-1-0-0—2
Minnesota Duluth……… 0-1-1-0-1—3
First period — 1. Mankato, Matt Leitner 11 (Zach Palmquist), 19:05 (pp). Penalties —Eriah Hayes, Mankato (hooking), 16:31; J.T. Brown, UMD (tripping), 18:24.
Second period — 2. UMD, David Grun 3 (Joe Basaraba, Jake Hendrickson), 13:46. Penalties — Brett Stern, Mankato (tripping), 5:10; Eli Zuck, Mankato (hooking), 15:28; Grun, UMD (slashing), 18:16.
Third period — 3. Mankato, Tyler Elbrecht 1 (Johnny McInnis,), 3:54; 4. UMD, J.T. Brown 23 (Brady lamb, Travis Oleksuk), 6:59 (pp). Penalties —Hayes, Mankato (interference), 6:03; Caleb Herbert, UMD (boarding), 8:14.
First overtime — No scoring. Penalties — Tim Smith, UMD (tripping), 18:51
Second overtime — 5. UMD, Mike Seidel 15 (Keegan Flaherty, Jack Connolly), 4:07. Penalties — None.
Shots on goal — Mankato 11-5-14-16-3—49, UMD 15-12-13-15-4—59. Goalies — Austin Lee (5-16-1), Mankato (59 shots-56 saves); Kenny Reiter (22-7-6), UMD (49 shots-47 saves). Power plays — Mankato 1-of-4, UMD 1-of-4. Referees — Tom Sterns, C.J. Beaurline. Linesmen —Sam Shikowsky, Nick Bradshaw. A — 5,346.