LOVELAND, COLO. – A gritty, third-period comeback from a two-goal deficit and Ryan Sandelin's heroics in overtime gave Minnesota State Mankato something it never had before: an NCAA Division I tournament win.
Sandelin scored 11:13 into OT, lifting the Mavericks to a 4-3 victory over Quinnipiac in the West Regional semifinals on Saturday at the Budweiser Events Center. The victory was Minnesota State's first in seven tries in the NCAA tournament and moved the Mavericks into Sunday's 7 p.m. (Central time) regional final against the winner of the Gophers-Nebraska Omaha semifinal. The Mavericks (21-4-1) are one step away from going to the Frozen Four.
"We were just trying to find a way to claw back into that one. We dug ourselves a pretty deep hole,'' Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings said. "Scoring those last three goals – getting that extra attacker goal and that goal in overtime – says a lot about this team.''
On the winning play, Mavericks grabbed the puck behind the Quinnipiac net after a shot by center Brendan Furry. Lutz tried to stuff it in the right side, but the puck popped over to Sandelin, who jammed it home past Bobcats goalie Keith Petruzzelli, setting off a wild Mavericks celebration.
"Furry made a great move down the middle,'' said Sandelin, whose father, Scott, is the Minnesota Duluth coach. "… Reggie made a great play. Luckily, it came to me.''
Mavericks center Nathan Smith scored with 5:06 left in the third period, and winger Cade Borchardt knotted the score 3-3 with 1:01 to play to force overtime as Minnesota State rallied from a 3-1 deficit.
Jake Jaremko scored a second-period goal for Minnesota State. Dryden McKay, a top three finalist for the Mike Richter Award as the nation's top goalie, made 27 saves.
Oden Tufto and Peter DiLiberatore scored first-period goals, and Petruzzelli made 34 saves for the Bobcats (17-8-4).
Tufto, the nation's second-leading scorer, put Quinnipiac up 1-0 three minutes into the game. He took a pass from DiLiberatore in the slot, deked to get McKay to commit, and tucked the puck into the open net. The goal was his eighth of the season and 46th point of the season for the former St. Thomas Academy standout from Chaska.
Quinnipiac stretched the lead to 2-0 at 14:35 of the first when DiLiberatore pinched in and finished a tic-tac-toe play with Guus van Nes and Christophe Fillion.
Minnesota State began the second period with much more energy but couldn't solve Petruzzelli until late in the period.
Jaremko cut the lead to 2-1 at 18:09 of the second when Jaremko tipped in Julian Napravnik's shot from the point.
CJ McGee increased Quinnipiac's lead to 3-1 at 8:54 of the third when his shot from the point beat McKay.
"It wasn't looking good was an understatement,'' Hastings said. "I just said, 'Guys, let's just push all the chips in.' ''
Smith's goal cut it to 3-2, and the Mavericks pulled McKay for an extra attacker with 1:35 to play. Jake Livingstone brought the puck into the Bobcats zone, drove to the net and passed back to Borchardt, who fired the puck past Petruzzelli for the equalizer.
Minnesota State controlled play in OT, outshooting Quinnipiac 7-2.
Afterward, the Mavericks celebrated the result, but looked ahead, too.
"We'll enjoy it for about an hour and then focus on our game tomorrow,'' captain Riese Zmolek said.