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Overtime Thriller

UMD edges MSU in North Star College Cup Opener in Iafallo OT winner at the ‘X’ …

Featured Image: UMD's Alex Iafallo celebrates his overtime winner against Minnesota State. (Photo/Jeff Wegge)

Featured Image:
UMD’s Alex Iafallo celebrates his overtime winner against Minnesota State.
(Photo/Jeff Wegge)

A little bit of snow was the perfect backdrop for an all-Minnesota hockey tournament in the inaugural North Star College Cup. Coming from near opposite ends of the state, the University of Minnesota-Duluth and Minnesota State-Mankato faced-off at 4 p.m. as the appetizer in the night’s two-game feast.

And the two squads didn’t disappoint, mirroring each other throughout the entire game before a non-Minnesota native ended it in overtime fashion.

New York native Alex Iafallo got a look from Tony Cameranesi on the Bulldog power play with 26.5 seconds left to go in the extra frame for the 5-4 win. The rebirth of the Minnesota rivalries this weekend wasn’t lost on him during the course of that game-winner.

“Starting my freshman year, I just kind of came in to the Minnesota culture,” said Iafallo, who finished the night with three points. “It’s great. I’m still a New Yorker, but it’s great I got the Minnesota-side view.”

The power-play goal was one of many in the night, with very little 5-on-5 hockey played the whole game. A total of four power play goals and two shorthanded goals were split amongst the teams.

“It was a very tough game, very back and forth hockey … and the last one with the puck won,” Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings said. “[Goaltender] Cole Huggins has pulled our bacon out of the fryer multiple times this year and he thought he had it at the end but came up just short.”

It seemed that whatever one team did, the other would answer, only better.

The Bulldogs bit first with Andy Welinski stepping just inside the blue line for a quick slapshot that got through to the back of the net at 7:28.

Back and forth play resumed and Mankato kept it tight as Johnny McInnis added his own from the outside at 10:25 to make it a one-all game. The Mavericks shutdown a power-play opportunity for UMD before getting their own chance for the odd-man advantage.

It only took a faceoff win in the Duluth-zone for Mankato to capitalize, when Matt Leitner hammered it home up front to give the Mavericks a 2-1 lead at 14:25. It was a lead they held on to heading into the second.

The second was another evenly matched period for the two squads as, again, Minnesota-Duluth struck first. Austin Farley sniped one to the back of the net just six seconds in on the power play to knot the game up at two at 3:49. Momentum shifted into the Bulldogs favor, with clear puck control and a majority of the period’s possession. Captain Adam Krause gave Duluth the lead after posting up in front for the putaway goal on Iafallo’s shot to make it 3-2 at 10:27.

But MSU wasn’t done, taking charge in the second half of the period and setting up a rush that led to a power-play chance. Jean-Paul Lafontaine narrowly slipped one over the line that, after review, tied the game back up at 3-3 at 16:58.

Penalties continued in the chippy game and opened up the final frame. Being shorthanded didn’t stop the Mavericks from tallying one early on at 6:53. Zach Lehrke stepped out of the box, received a Zach Palmquist pass for a breakaway and the easy goal around Aaron Crandall to give the Mavericks a 4-3 lead.

But as seemed true in the night’s game, Duluth answered back with its own shorthanded goal. Kyle Osterberg broke free and scored with a nice move around Cole Huggins and once again the game was tied up, 4-4.

Free hockey arrived for the fans as the game was pushed into a five-minute overtime where both squads had their chances to end it. But a late boarding penalty by Minnesota State’s Brett Stern set UMD up for the eventual Iafallo winner.

The Bulldogs will face either Minnesota or St. Cloud State in the championship game, two teams they have already met this season.

“To be honest I think I’d rather play Minnesota tomorrow,” said Bulldog head coach Scott Sandelin, whose team will meet St. Cloud State in conference play in two weeks. “We’re going to have to be better in some areas tomorrow.”

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