His moist eyes and forlorn voice made words unnecessary. Still, St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko didn’t leave any doubt about how shattered he was after a 5-4 overtime loss to Ferris State in the NCAA West Regional.
“This tournament can rip your heart out,’’ Motzko said. “It absolutely can rip your heart out.’’
The Huskies’ hearts were laid bare after only 18 seconds of overtime Saturday at Xcel Energy Center. After clawing back from a 4-2 deficit in the third period, top-seeded St. Cloud State made its final and most costly error of a mistake-filled game. Ferris State won a faceoff in its zone, Gerald Mayhew raced down the ice and shot, and Jared VanWormer followed him to the net to send the rebound past Huskies goalie Charlie Lindgren.
The fourth-seeded Bulldogs (20-14-6) were heavy underdogs to the No. 2-ranked Huskies, who led the nation with 31 wins entering the tourney. Ferris State moved on to Sunday’s regional final via its unflagging defense, anchored by the outstanding play of freshman goalie Darren Smith.
Smith robbed the Huskies (31-9-1) numerous times and finished with 29 saves. His opportunistic teammates made things tough on St. Cloud State, disrupting the second highest-scoring offense in college hockey and converting four Huskies turnovers into goals. Ferris State scored the game’s first goal at 2 minutes, 56 seconds of the first period, and the Bulldogs never trailed — and never lost faith, even when St. Cloud State cranked up the heat.
“[The Huskies] are a great team,’’ said Mayhew, whose goal at 12:01 of the second gave the Bulldogs a 4-2 lead. “We just kept saying, ‘Stay together. Work together. Outwork the opponents in front of the net, in the corners, and good things will happen.’
“They did score two goals [in the third], and it was definitely a heartbreaker. But everyone was positive.’’
The Huskies came into the tournament with big expectations. Though most of the home-state crowd was in their corner, they left without a win for the first time since 2008, ending a streak of four NCAA tournament appearances in which they won at least once.
Motzko said the Huskies did not have their A game, which was evident early. Ferris State forced frequent turnovers and consistently won battles along the boards and in the corners. Mitch Maloney tucked in a shot at the left goalpost to start the scoring, and after Jacob Benson pulled the Huskies even only 17 seconds later, VanWormer slipped behind the defense to beat Lindgren with 23 seconds left in the first.
Kenny Babinski’s goal from the right circle made it 3-1. The Huskies’ Mikey Eyssimont cut the margin back to one with the first of his two power-play scores, before Mayhew pushed the Bulldogs’ lead to 4-2. Given the situation, defenseman Nathan Widman said the Huskies decided they would “take some chances’’ and play freely in the third period.
“If we were going to lose, we were going to go down swinging,’’ Widman said. “I think guys were gripping their sticks a little bit tight. We knew we had to make a push at the end.”
Their push wasn’t quite enough, though — and even Ferris State coach Bob Daniels could commiserate. “You’re elated, but you feel for the other guys,’’ he said. “It’s a great game on one hand. But it’s pretty cruel on the other.’’