Who: Fargo-Moorhead Jets vs. Southern Minnesota Express
Where: Shattuck-St. Mary's Arena, Faribault, Minnesota
When: April 27, 2007
Final Score: 3-2 Southern Minnesota (3ot)
If I recall, the press release put out after this game had something non-committal like "We're pretty sure this was the longest US junior playoff game in history" and as far as I know, nobody else stepped up and claimed a longer game, and nobody had a longer playoff game last year, so we'll just go ahead and call this the longest playoff in US junior hockey history.
Southern Minnesota had won the first two games of the series in Fargo, and needed this game to clinch a trip to the NAHL Tournament. Fargo-Moorhead needed the win to extend their season.
As you'd expect, this was an absolutely fantastic goaltenders battle from start to finish with current Minnesota State back-up Austin Lee in goal for Fargo-Moorhead, and current Denver back-up Lars Paulgaard in net for Southern Minnesota.
It took 37 minutes to get the game's first goal, when Chris Connolly scored to give F-M the lead. F-M looked like they were in the good shape to extend their season when they added a second goal at 5:51 of the third period. Southern Minnesota couldn't mount much attack on the Jets, and when they did, Austin Lee was rock solid in goal. But with just under 6 minutes to play, Southern Minnesota caught a break and went on the powerplay. Thirty seconds later, they had scored and cut the deficit to just one.
The game looked to be all but over with about 90 seconds to play, but Fargo-Moorhead took another penalty, and the Express tied the game with 44 seconds left on the clock. That would be the start of what would go on to be almost another entire game of hockey.
You'd expect both teams to play things pretty close to the vest in overtime of a playoff game, but the game was still pretty wide open. Shots were 12-10 favor Southern Minnesota in the first overtime period. F-M dominated the second overtime, outshooting Southern Minnesota 17-7 and had the first powerplay of the overtime. But Southern Minnesota's Lars Paulgaard was absolutely incredible. I was standing on the glass right behind Paulgaard and some of the saves he was making were phenomenal. One in particular that sticks in my memory was a shot through traffic that he was completely screened on. The shot was labeled for the lower left corner of the net and Paulgaard somehow threw his right leg out to kick it wide. There's no way he could have seen the shot until the very last second, but he was so locked in that he was able to make the save on pure instinct and quickness.
By the third overtime, it was becoming pretty obvious that the game would have to be won on special teams, because nobody was going to beat one of those goaltenders at even strength. After Fargo-Moorhead got their powerplay in the second OT, Southern Minnesota got a man advantage in the third overtime, and for the third time that night, they capitalized. It wasn't even a pretty goal. Mike Montgomery(now at Minnesota-Duluth) fired a shot that deflected off a shin pad or something in front of the net and went straight to the stick of teammate Dusty Jackson(now at Denver). Jackson caught the puck on his backhand, facing away from the net and just sort of flung the puck over his shoulder towards the net. Lee wasn't able to recover from the initial shot in time and the puck went in to finally end the game.
The final tally on the night was 110:15 of hockey, with each team registering 56 shots apiece, but Paulgaard winning the goaltending battle over Lee by making 54 saves, to Lee's 53.