BUFFALO, N.Y. – With less than two minutes left in overtime of Saturday’s Michigan-North Dakota matchup, North Dakota coach Dean Blais pulled out a pen and piece of paper. After trailing by two goals with five minutes left in the third period, he was content to take the tie and finish the game with an unofficial shootout.
But before Blais could write down the names of his five shooters, junior David Lundbohm corralled a loose puck in Michigan’s zone and backhanded it underneath Al Montoya’s glovehand to give the Fighting Sioux a 5-4 win and the Punch Imlach College Hockey Showcase championship.
Michigan led for most of the third period and seemed to be on its way to extending its record to 2-0, which made the loss more disappointing for the Wolverines.
“We have to be better than that,” freshman Jeff Tambellini said. “To have a 4-2 lead with five minutes to go in the game, it’s unacceptable to ever lose a lead like that. Especially in such a big game like this.”
Michigan beat Niagara 3-0 on Friday, but the loss to then-No. 13 North Dakota dropped Michigan three spots to No. 6 in the USCHO poll.
After North Dakota’s Nick Fuher opened the scoring halfway through the first period, Michigan sophomore Eric Nystrom sent a slapper past goalie Josh Siembida. The Wolverines didn’t trail again until Lundbohm’s overtime goal.
Nystrom then helped give Michigan its first lead with just over 30 seconds left in the first period. On a three-on-two break with Charlie Henderson and David Moss, Nystrom took the puck on the right wing, pulled up as the defense went by, and sent a cross-ice pass to Moss, who wristed it in.
With the score again tied late in the second period, Mark Mink netted his second goal of the weekend thanks to a heads-up pass by Montoya to Michael Woodford at center ice. Woodford quickly dished it to Mink, who beat Siembida stick side to put the Wolverines up 3-2. They held that lead until 15:02 of the third, when Tambellini banged one past Siembida. Nystrom assisted on the play, giving him three points in the game.
But instead of deflating North Dakota, Michigan’s two-goal lead seemed to give the Fighting Sioux life.
Zack Parise scored his second of the game 13 seconds after Tambellini’s tally, and Brandon Bochenski tied the game with 2:31 to go.
Sloppy play in the defensive end hurt the Wolverines in the end of the period.
“I think we got a little too overconfident and we didn’t start paying attention to our own zone,” Tambellini said. “We were focusing too much on the offensive zone and that really hurt us. It’s just that split second. They got the 4-3 goal and then they got the emotion coming right back with them and they just built off it.”
Despite the third-period collapse, associate head coach Mel Pearson – who filled in while head coach Red Berenson attended a family event – liked the intensity of the game, and thought the overtime was good for the young Wolverines.
“It’s going to be a growing process for these young guys, especially for the sophomores and freshmen, but they’re getting thrown into good opportunities, good situations at this time of the year,” Pearson said. “Hopefully that will pay off down the road.”
Pearson said he thought Michigan played better against North Dakota than it did in its 3-0 win over Niagara the night before.
Tambellini, Mink and junior defenseman Eric Werner all scored in the penalty-riddled contest against Niagara. Werner knocked in a rebound for a short-handed goal in the first period, and Mink and Tambellini padded the lead in the second period.
The Purple Eagles attacked offensively, and out-shot the Wolverines in the third, but they couldn’t find the back of the net. Montoya stopped all 29 shots he faced to earn the shutout in his first collegiate game.
The freshman goaltender impressed Niagara coach Dave Burkholder.
“He was making everything look easy,” Burkholder said. “He’s going to be a big timer. I hate to say it, (but) I don’t know how long they’ll have him.”