Trailing Wisconsin-Superior 3-0 with less than 15 minutes to go in the third period of a Northern Collegiate Hockey Association playoff game Saturday with its season left for dead, St. Scholastica found a way to survive — again and again.
The Saints — down 1-0 in the best-of-three quarterfinal series — scored four unanswered, unassisted goals in a 13-minute span to end a 52-game winless streak against the rival Yellowjackets.
But before the Saints could celebrate their first victory over the Yellowjackets since 1990, they needed one more win — in a series-deciding 20-minute minigame that night.
After falling behind 1-0 in the opening minute of the minigame, the Saints tied it on Jordan Chong’s penalty-shot goal with 19 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime.
That’s where St. Scholastica freshman forward Aaron Spotts put the exclamation point on a wild night with his goal assisted by Joey Martini and Shawn Bartlette at 6:52 for 2-1 game and series victories.
“I think one of the best comments I got when all was said and done, one of my players said, ‘Hollywood couldn’t have written a better script than that,’ ” St. Scholastica head coach Mark Wick said Sunday.
Sure, these Saints didn’t suffer through all 51 losses and one tie since the program’s last victory over the Yellowjackets in 1990, but at times it may have felt like it.
“It was in the back of some guys’ minds. But us freshmen coming in here, we’ve looked at (the Yellowjackets) as another team to play, another game for us,” Chong said Sunday. “Once you got in the game, I don’t think anyone thought about the streak.”
Chong, a freshman forward from North Vancouver, British Columbia, was one of six Saints — goaltender Tyler Johnson was pulled for an extra attacker — on the ice when UWS knocked its net off the moorings with 19 seconds to play in the minigame.
“As soon as I saw the ref’s arm go up, I was hoping (Wick) was gonna pick me,” Chong said. “He asked me (if I could score) before the shot, and I said I could do it.”
Chong said he knew what he was going to do on the breakaway against UWS goalie Chad Beiswenger.
“That was interesting. … I didn’t have that gut feeling (of who to have take the penalty shot) and said (to assistant coach Randy Barker), ‘Who do you think, Barker?’ ” Wick said. “He said, ‘Chonger.’ I said, ‘Chonger, can you score?’ He said, ‘I got it, Coach.’ ”
Barker’s hunch paid off as Chong tucked home the tying goal to keep the comeback alive. His premonition, Wick said, had something to do with a breakaway game the Saints play in practice called “Survivor,” where Chong has been successful.
Barker wasn’t done making predictions.
The Saints were forced to shuffle their lines during a 10-minute misconduct penalty. Barker told Wick he had a feeling about Martini, Bartlette and Spotts.
“Those three haven’t been on a line together the entire year,” Wick said. “Randy made those two calls on Saturday night that turned out to be pretty good gut feelings.”
UWS — which beat St. Scholastica twice the week before — finished the season 20-7-1.
The Saints (15-11-2) face Wisconsin-River Falls (21-4-2) in an NCHA semifinal game at 7 p.m. Saturday in River Falls.
Chong insists the Saints won’t have trouble shifting their focus to the Falcons.
“I don’t think it will be too tough; a lot of guys are buying into the systems,” he said. “If we continue to play the way we did (Saturday), we’ll have what it takes to continue on.”