CINCINNATI (AP) — Mark MacMillan was standing his ground in front of the goal when the puck caromed off his side and into the net. His deflection set up an NCAA tournament upset.
MacMillan’s goal broke a tie with 1:44 to go, and North Dakota added a pair of open-net goals in the final minute Friday night, pulling away to a 5-2 victory over top-seeded Wisconsin in the NCAA tournament’s Midwest Regional semifinals.
No. 3 North Dakota (24-13-3) will face second-seeded Ferris State for the regional title Saturday and a trip to the Frozen Four. Ferris State beat Colgate 1-0 in the other semifinal.
The seven-time national champions got an at-large berth when Wisconsin (24-11-2) beat Ohio State for the Big Ten title, eliminating the Buckeyes. North Dakota then knocked out its long-time rival with three late goals, the most important one coming quite by chance.
Brendan O’Donnell shot from the right wing and the rising puck hit MacMillan and went past goaltender Joel Rumpel for a 3-2 lead.
“I was just trying to go to the net,” MacMillan said. “It just went off my side and bounced into the net. Bit of a lucky one, but we’ll take it.”
The goal was reviewed to see if the puck deflected off MacMillan’s raised stick or if he had interfered with Rumpel.
“The ref did come over and say the North Dakota player did not bump your goaltender,” Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said. “It hit him and it went in.”
Rocco Grimaldi scored a pair of empty-net goals in the final minute, giving him three goals in the game and ending the latest installment to a long-standing hockey rivalry.
It was the 164th game between the schools. They’ve met three times in the NCAA tournament, and North Dakota has won all three – 5-2 in the 1982 title game and 3-2 in overtime in a 2008 regional final.
This one especially stung Wisconsin, which had nine seniors and a determination to get beyond its opening tournament game. The Badgers also reached the tournament last year but got beat by UMass-Lowell 6-1 in their opening game.
North Dakota scored 5:06 into the game when Drake Cagglula got the puck behind the net and passed it back out to Michael Parks, who slid it to Rumpel’s glove side and shot it past his foot for a 1-0 lead.
North Dakota’s Bryn Chyzyk slammed into Rumpel while knocking the puck into the net midway through the first period. The goal was waived off, and Chyzyk got a 2-minute penalty for goaltender interference. With 4 seconds left in the power play, Jedd Soleway beat goalie Zane Gothberg to tie it.
Rumpel kept it close until the final minute, stopping 30 shots. The last two goals came off a turnover and a deflection.
Grimaldi intercepted a pass at the red line and skated in on Rumpel, beating him with a backhand flip for a 2-1 lead in the second period.
Tyler Barnes tied it midway through the third period, skating to get a loose puck and beating Zane Gothberg to the glove side. The tying goal was upheld on review. Wisconsin felt the momentum had changed.
“Once we tied it up 2-2 there, we thought we had it,” defenseman Jake McCabe said. “They got the bounce today.”
O’Donnell took his game-turning shot just hoping to make something happen.
“I was lucky it hit Mark or it pretty surely would have gone flying over the net,” he said.
Once the Badgers pulled the goalie, Grimaldi finished it off.
“It was everything we thought that game would be,” coach Dave Hakstol said.