On March 27th, a game lasting 142 minutes and 13 seconds was played, which was the longest game in NCAA tournament history. This game was between the top team in the nation, the University of North Dakota (UND) and two-time defending cup champions, the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD). The last time the two teams faced off against each other in the NCAA tournament was back in 1984, where current coaches of the respective clubs played for the University of North Dakota. In that game, the University of Minnesota-Duluth won 2-1 in OT, as they went on to the NCAA national championship.
The University of North Dakota
The University of North Dakota is on the Senators fanbase’s radar, due to this team having 4 Senators prospects: Jacob Bernard-Docker (JBD), Shane Pinto, Jake Sanderson and Tyler Kleven. 2 of the 4 players won awards heading into the tournament, JBD winning NCHA top defender and Pinto winning NCHC player of the year, along with being named the NCHC Forward of the Year and defensive forward of the year. Although the spotlight was on the 4 prospects, there was also a Senators prospect on the opposition in Luke Loheit.
The Fighting Hawks was a team that went 21-5-1, claiming the Penrose Cup, awarded to the NCHC regular-season champions. In the game prior to the University of North Dakota vs the University of Minnesota-Duluth, UND played against American International (AIC) and won 5-1, as UND picked up its first win in the NCAA tournament since 2016. And as shown in the tweet below, all of the Senator’s defenders had 1 point each in that game:
University of North Dakota vs University of Minnesota-Duluth
The winner of this game was going to move onto the frozen four and play against the University of Massachusetts, who beat Bemidji State University.
This was the line-up for North Dakota:
The first 2 periods were scoreless and it was the 3rd period where a lot of the action happened. At 3:21, Minnesota-Duluth got off to a quick start in this period, the first goal deflected off a player. The second goal happened soon after, 1 minute and 20 seconds later, a turnover in the offensive zone led to a breakaway goal. It was 2-0 Minnesota-Duluth with 15 minutes left in the game. UND couldn’t seem to sustain any offensive pressure and UMD continued to clog the neutral zone, create turnovers and dump the pucks in. There were a few good chances though, like this one from Shane Pinto:
With 2:40 left in the game, UND decides to take a chance and pull their goalie and then with 1:40 left in the game, Collin Adams scores! Pinto got an assist on this goal.
Then with 56 seconds left in the game, Jordan Kawaguchi scored on a feed from Pinto to tie the game and force overtime:
7 minutes and 38 seconds into overtime, Minnesota-Duluth scored a goal, which was later overturned:
UND also came really close to winning the game. As shown in the clip below, the puck landed on the top of the net:
This game was a very intense and long game, I mean 5 overtimes?! The goalie for UMD got a leg cramp in 4OT after making 57(!) saves. One player that stood above the rest though was Sanderson and he didn’t seem tired even in 5OT, as shown in the clip below:
He almost scored in 2OT as well:
Sanderson was tremendous in the game and for those of you wondering, he is still 18. It will be really fun to watch Chabot and Sanderson in the future. This was a very exciting game and for Senators fans, it was a great opportunity to catch a glimpse of the future. Sanderson, JBD and Pinto played a great game and they also played a lot, Sanderson with 52:58, JBD with 53:15 and Pinto played 53:14. They played a lot but also had decent stats as well. Along with the 2 assists Pinto had, he had 6 shots, Sanderson had 8 shots while JBD had 7 shots. Pinto had an xGF of 1.03 while Sanderson was +21 and Kleven was +20 in terms of Corsi differential (stats from Instathockey)
Pinto has so much lower body strength and was a beast in the corners; he just couldn’t be knocked off the puck. He also had a few good chances in OT and even hit the post in 3OT:
Due to North Dakota’s season-ending, it was expected that JBD, Pinto and maybe Sanderson were going to sign with the Senators. But it now seems as if Pinto and Sanderson will both return to play for UND next season.
Pinto expected to return to the team next season took a lot of people by surprise as he dominated college this season. As mentioned earlier, he won NCHC Player of the Year, Forward of the Year and Defensive Forward of the Year. Along with that, he was selected to the First-Team All NCHC team, nominated for the Hobey Baker award and named to the all-tournament team.
If Sanderson returns to the team next season, which it looks like he will, it would be a good decision. Although he looked great recently, especially in the game against UMD, staying with the team will allow him to play games as the top defencemen. He will most likely be promoted to the top defensive pair due to Matt Kiersted and JBD most likely departing. Even if he was to turn pro this season, it is unlikely that he is going to perform at a very high level. If he were to stay in college, it will help him develop and maybe next season, he will be able to jump in and make an impact, similar to what Cale Makar did. Nevertheless, he looks really promising.