MOORHEAD, Minn. (2/10/17)---Concordia's offense finally stopped hitting the snooze button and woke up in the last six minutes against St. Olaf to erase a two-goal deficit and beat the Oles in the shootout.
The game goes in the official books as a tie but the shootout victory gives the Cobbers a valuable two points in the standings and solidifies their hold on the fifth, and final, spot for the conference playoffs.
Concordia is now 12-8-2 overall and 6-5-2 in league games while the Oles move to 6-13-3 in all games and 4-7-2 in the MIAC.
After giving up a goal in each of the second and third periods, and failing to convert on two power play chances, Concordia countered with two unanswered goals in the final 6:16 of the final frame to send the game into overtime.
St. Olaf seemed to have the game well in hand when they tallied their second goal of the game at 13:16 of the third period. The Cobber offense had sputtered up until that point as Concordia seemed to be sleep walking through the opener of their final regular-season home series.
That's when one of the least likely offensive stars reached over and smashed the snooze button for CC and started the late-game comeback. Junior defenseman Bryan Kronberger swooped down the left wing and snapped home a laser to record only his second goal of the season. The momentum changer came less than 30-seconds after the second Ole goal. Senior defenseman Jordan Krebsbach was credited with the first of two assists on the night.
After trailing for 57:37 of game time, the Cobbers sent the game to overtime when Mario Bianchi fought off a back check and crashed the net to jam home a saucer pass which was played by Krebsbach. Bianchi slammed the puck home with his stick and then his body crashed through the goalie and sent both players sprawling into the net. His game-tying goal at 17:37 of the third period was his sixth score of the year.
Cobber goalie Sam Nelson stuffed two of three St. Olaf shooters in the shootout before Tanner Okeson rifled a shot into the net to give Concordia the victory and the two points. Junior Jon Grebosky had scored on Concordia's first attempt after the Oles started the shootout with a goal of their own.
The Cobbers started slow as they gave up three odd-man rush opportunities in the first period. CC relied heavily on Nelson to hold St. Olaf at bay in the opening frame. The MIAC saves leader stopped 32 shots on the night — including four breakaway battle wins.
Playing their first home game away from the Moorhead Sports Center this season due to a conflicting event, Concordia had luck on its side when an Ole attacker rang the crossbar behind Nelson on a breakaway halfway through the opening frame.
Chris Howe's squad got a much-needed break when a pane of glass shattered behind the St. Olad net with 59-seconds to go in the first period. The officials decided to send the teams to their locker rooms and tack on the extra time to the second period. After a 25-minute intermission, the teams returned to the ice.
St. Olaf came out strong in the second period and grabbed the 1-0 lead at the 2:40 mark of the period when the puck found an Ole stick to the right of Nelson. Nelson couldn't get his body in front of the shot as it found the twine of the top right corner.
Zach Doerring gave his teammates a burst of momentum with a crushing hit on a St. Olaf attacker in the neutral zone and then Joe Burgmeier nearly tied the game when his shot sailed past the Ole goaltender but found the iron of the crossbar before ricocheting to safety.
Concordia trailed 1-0 after two periods of play and well into the third as the Oles fought to keep its playoff hopes alive. St. Olaf capitalized on an unlucky turnover when an attempted clear by Doerring bounced off a skate in front of Nelson and onto the stick of an Ole attacker for an easy goal at the 13:16 mark of the final frame.
Less than a minute later, Kronberger started the comeback which Bianchi finished at the 17:37 mark.
Regulation ended with the two teams tied at two apiece, and five minutes of overtime was also indecisive. Bianchi had the best chance for Concordia in the extra period when he boxed out a defender and threw a backhand at the Ole net in the final seconds of overtime but his would-be game winner clanged off the left post.
Grebosky matched St. Olaf's first shooter in the shootout with a goal of his own on a nifty forehand-backhand-forehand move that stymied the Ole goaltender before Nelson shut the door on the next two St. Olaf shooters. Okeson shot third for the Cobbers and slowly wound his way down the right side of the ice before firing a shot past the blocker of the St. Olaf goalie to secure the two points that came with a 2-1 shootout victory.
WE LIKE BONUS HOCKEY: The Cobbers have now played five games this season that have been extended past regulation. Concordia is undefeated in those five games and has won three in OT and two in a shootout.
SHOOTOUT SUCCESS: With the 2-1 shootout victory, Concordia moves to 2-0 on the year in the post-overtime decider. The other shootout victory for the Cobbers came on Jan. 13 against Hamline in another 2-1 shootout win after five rounds. Dalton Mills scored the game winner in that contest. Okeson had the decider on Friday and the Roseau native is now 1-2 in the shootout this season.
BACK TO THE FUTURE: Sam Nelson continued his stretch of fantastic goaltending as he stopped 32 of 34 St. Olaf shots for his eighth win of the season. Nelson ranks first in the MIAC with 509 saves this season and third in save percentage with a 92.7% mark. Nelson returned to his normal self on Friday after an uncharacteristic outing last Saturday at St. Thomas which saw him give up five goals on 32 shots. The freshman will look to continue his solid goaltending tomorrow afternoon as he has solidified his spot as the No. 1 goalie for Concordia.
HOME AWAY FROM HOME: Although the game counted as a home contest for the Cobbers, the matchup was hosted at Moorhead Youth Hockey due to an annual figure skating competition at the Moorhead Sports Center. The Cobbers have enjoyed their "home away from home" as they have now won three straight at the Youth Rink dating back to 2013.
CONCORDIA vs. ST. OLAF HIGHLIGHTS: