CINCINNATI — After 81 minutes and 28 seconds, Connor Gaarder picked up a rebound, moved the puck to the top of the crease, patiently waiting for goalie C.J. Motte to open his pads, then slipped the puck five-hole to send UND to the Frozen Four.
After the goal, Gaarder slid on his back toward the boards, where his teammates piled on top of him.
On the bench, Stephane Pattyn turned and hugged trainer Mark Poolman. Right beside them, the three coaches embraced.
After exchanging hugs and handshakes on the ice, UND skated over to a section of UND fans, acknowledged them, then crowded in front of them for a team picture.
Gaarder is the improbable goal scorer and Philly is the improbable destination for the 2013-14 team.
There was plenty of coverage of the Midwest Regional. Here are some stories:
Some other thoughts and stats on the regional final:
- This was the longest NCAA tournament game in UND history. It also was the first double overtime game since the 2011 Final Five title game against Denver. Matt Frattin scored the winner for UND in that game.
- Gaarder will now go down in history along with Chris Porter and Andrew Kozek for scoring a dramatic overtime goal to send UND to the Frozen Four. One common theme among the three: All of them scored five-hole. Porter beat Minnesota’s Jeff Frazee five-hole on a wraparound. Kozek beat Wisconsin’s Shane Connolly on a rebound through traffic.
- Saturday was also the birthday of Gaarder’s father, Tim. Solid birthday gift from his son.
- On Twitter, I saw a photo of Gaarder’s grandparents (former Vikes coach Jerry Burns) watching the game from Montego Bay, Jamaica. Apparently, they made a restaurant open early so they could go watch.
- UND has now reached the Frozen Four as a No. 1 (twice), No. 2 (twice), No. 3 (once) and No. 4 (once) seed under coach Dave Hakstol, who is 14-4 in NCAA regionals (six Frozen Fours, eight regional title games in 10 years).
- I thought that the Cincinnati regional would be a flop. It wasn’t, though. I was very impressed by how many local hockey fans showed up. I saw lots of Cincinnati Cyclones jerseys. That was not the case last year in Grand Rapids. Someone told me at the hotel that they just talked to a father, who drove four hours with his son from Cleveland to introduce him to college hockey. They were treated with three great, down-to-the-wire games.
- This doesn’t happen often at regionals, but UND’s fan base was probably the third largest there. Ferris State and Wisconsin both had good crowds. Ferris fans could drive there.
- One other positive is that downtown Cincinnati really seemed to embrace the tournament. There were lots of signs around town. They had a member of the visitor’s bureau at our hotel to help people. Maybe that’s part of why they got locals to come out. Miami University hosted it and, not surprisingly, did a nice job.
- The biggest downside was that the ice clearly was getting bad at the end of the UND-FSU game. Players were falling down all over the place when they tried to turn. It was one of those games where you hoped the game-winner wasn’t going to come when a player fell.
- I thought Ferris State was outstanding in this game and probably deserved a better fate. I don’t expect any UND fans to be apologizing. They’ve been on the other end of these games multiple times.
- Ferris was as advertised — they blocked a ton of shots and made it very difficult for UND to generate offense. In the third period and overtime, the Bulldogs really started to crank up the offense. That’s when Zane Gothberg was so clutch.
- The all-tournament team certainly should have included Gothberg, but we have to vote on it with 10 minutes to go in the third period. Gothberg’s best play was after the ballots were already in. At the time of voting, Motte had allowed 1 goal in six periods.
- Dillon Simpson now leads the nation with 107 blocked shots and nobody will catch him in that category this season. To illustrate how impressive that number is, Jordan Schmaltz is second on the team in blocked shots with 58.
- And in case you were wondering, Skyline Chili > Gold Star Chili.