At least one Western New Yorker was guaranteed to have a shot at playing for the NCAA men's ice hockey championship during this week's Frozen Four in Chicago.
Alex Iafallo saw to it personally that it would be his Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs. The Eden native scored the game-winning goal with 26.6 seconds left as Duluth defeated Harvard, 2-1, in the first national semifinal game Thursday night at United Center.
Iafallo scored via a nifty redirection as he drove to the net and tipped a pass from Willie Raskob through the legs of Crimson goalie Merrick Madsen (36 saves).
Alex Iafallo with a huge redirect goal to give UMD the lead over Harvard pic.twitter.com/PxNHc4qmKR
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) April 7, 2017
The Bulldogs (28-6-7) will face Denver (32-7-4) for the championship at 8 p.m. Saturday.
"I just wanted to get it to the net," Iafallo said in postgame interview on ESPN2. "It was a good feed. …. We were just resilient."
It's the third straight one-goal game Duluth has won during the tournament. It's the third straight game Iafallo, the team's top scorer, has factored in the game-winning goal. He earned assists on overtime winners in the regional semifinal and final.
Harvard (28-6-2), which featured Buffalo Sabres prospect Sean Malone of West Seneca, scored the game's first goal – a power-play tally by Tyler Moy with five minutes left in the first period. The Bulldogs tied it 3:24 later on a goal by Joey Anderson.
Hunter Miska finished with 39 saves for Duluth, which is trying to win its second national championship. It last won it all in 2011. He received some help from his best friend in the closing seconds as a Crimson shot attempt to force overtime rang off the iron.
"They hit the crossbar which was pretty scary," Iafallo said.
Denver looked pretty scary in routing Notre Dame, 6-1, in the second semifinal. Leading 2-0, the Pioneers scored three times during the final six minutes of the second period to end the suspense with Tariq Hammond, Dylan Gambrell and Evan Ritt all beating Fighting Irish netminder and Sabres prospect Cal Petersen.
The loss by Notre Dame (23-12-5) prevents another clash between teams that feature players with local ties. St. Joe's product Dennis Gilbert, the sophomore defenseman and Chicago Blackhawks prospect, is a member of the Fighting Irish.