Oh So Close

Junior Tyler Bossert has his game-tying shot stopped in the final seconds of the Cobbers' MIAC Championship Game battle.
Junior Tyler Bossert has his game-tying shot stopped in the final seconds of the Cobbers' MIAC Championship Game battle.

MOORHEAD, Minn. (3/07/20)---It was a game befitting the conference championship. Two good teams playing at the top of their game with a berth to the NCAA Tournament on the line. In the end the game was won, and not lost, as Concordia gave up the game-winning goal in the final four minutes of the third period and lost 3-2 to St. Thomas.

The Cobbers, who were making their first MIAC Championship Game appearance since 2011 and hosting for the first time since 1987, trailed 2-1 heading into the final five minutes of the third period. Senior Aaron Herdt came through with a huge game-tying goal at 15:35 that sent the huge Moorhead Sports Center crowds into a frenzy.

Unfortunately the buzz in the arena would be short lived as the Tommies got control of the puck, pushed into the Concordia zone and went towards the net. Cobber goalie Jacob Stephan made a huge stop on the initial shot and flurry but UST was able to bang home the rebound at the 16:08 mark.

Concordia pushed hard for a second game-tying goal and nearly came up with a miracle comeback as Tyler Bossert had a chance in the dying seconds but his last-second shot was stopped by a sliding Tommie goalie.

The Cobbers outshot St. Thomas 31-19 in the game but it was the Tommies' ability to quickly counter Concordia's goals that proved to be the difference. UST returned serve in less than 40 seconds on both of CC's goals and used a spurt of 2 goals in 36-seconds to change the game.
The teams battled through an intense first period with neither team having a quality scoring chance. Concordia had a couple of skirmishes around the UST net and St. Thomas got a good shot on the end of a 2-on-1 rush but neither goalie allowed easy rebounds and the teams headed to the first break tied at 0-0 with each squad having nine shots on goal.

The first five minutes of the second period would set the theme for the for game. Concordia had their only power play attempt of the game for the first 1:46 of the second period and came up empty. St. Thomas appeared to have the momentum after the penalty kill and then they were staked to their only power play when CC player was whistled for too many men on the ice at 3:25.

St. Thomas held the puck in the Cobber end for the first 45 seconds of the power play but the Cobber defense kept UST from getting shots from in close. Concordia appeared to have the momentum on their side, and the crowd on full volume, when Matt Donnelly collected a loose puck at center ice and went in on a breakaway. Donnelly broke down the left side of the ice, skated in to the middle and fired a shot just inside the left post when it appeared he might skate to the net and try and put a move on the goalie.

Donnelly's shorthanded goal, his second overall on the season, gave the Cobbers the important first goal of the game. All three previous MIAC playoff games had been won by the team that scored first and the two games in the regular-season series between UST and CC were won by the team that scored first.     

Like Concordia only other goal in the final five minutes of the third, St. Thomas was quick to respond and take the crowd, and momentum, out of the game. The Tommmies converted on the power play just 35-seconds later.

The game completely changed 36-seconds later when the Tommies scored on a shot from a player falling to the ice to take an improbable 2-1 lead only 1:11 after Concordia had broken the 0-0 deadlock.

The Cobbers were able to regroup and resume the end-to-action that took place in the first period. Both teams had chances to score in the final 14 minutes of the second but the game headed to the third with the score at 2-1.

The third period went by extremely quickly with few stoppages of play and no penalties called. The game remained at 2-1 until Herdt scored his team-leading 13th of the year and then the Tommies won it 33-seconds later.

The play of both goalies was fitting for a championship match-up. Stephan turned aside 16 shots while UST netminder Henry Baribeau stopped 29 shots – including a couple of huge stops in the Cobbers' late-game flurries.

Herdt led all players with five shots while Donnelly and Beau Wilmer had four each.

There were only two penalties called in the game as the teams played a clean, hard checking 60 minutes of hockey.

Concordia finishes a banner year with a 14-11-2 record. It marks the second time in the four seasons have won 14 overall games. The second-place league finish was the highest since 2001.