PHILADELPHIA – Wait! Hold everything!
The puck’s in the net, the horn is going off, the scoreboard clock says 00:00, what in the heck just happened?
Even the hero couldn’t believe the magic he created in a blink of the eye.
“I was like, ‘Did that really happen?’ ” Justin Holl said.
Amazingly, it did, and now the Gophers get to play for the national championship Saturday night.
Did that really happen? A shorthanded goal that just barely beat the buzzer before overtime?
“Oh my gosh,” senior Nate Condon said.
Exactly. Those three words provide the perfect description of the final moment of the 291st meeting between the Gophers and their bitter rival North Dakota in the national semifinals at Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night.
A tight, tense game fittingly came down to a blocked shot, a perfect bounce and a dagger by Holl with less than a second remaining. Holl’s hurried shot sailed past North Dakota goalie Zane Gothberg officially with sixth-tenths of a second left to give the Gophers a 2-1 victory and leave this wonderful rivalry with another indelible memory.
“To have a game like that on this stage is unbelievable,” Condon said.
So, too, is the fact that Holl had not scored a goal all season. Not one, until he scored a goal that will etch his name in Gophers hockey lore.
“I was saving it,” he said, deadpan. “All year.”
The Gophers talked in the locker room before the game about the need for their seniors to rise to the occasion, to lead the way. A few players mentioned that Holl was due to score his first goal.
“It’s funny how it works like that,” Condon said.
Everything had to align for it to happen. The Gophers gained control of the puck on the penalty kill with about nine seconds left. Tick, tick, tick.
Skating down the left wing, Kyle Rau fired a shot, but the puck hit North Dakota’s Jordan Schmaltz’s skate almost immediately. Tick, tick, tick.
The puck ricocheted right to Holl. Tick, tick, tick.
“I figured that I didn’t have much time left so I might as well throw it on goal,” he said.