Third seeded Vermont tops No. 4 Air Force, 3-2, in double overtime to advance to the 2009 Frozen Four in Washington, D.C., in Bridgeport, Conn., on Sunday.
Dan Lawson scored the game winner at 14:10 of double overtime when he took a feed from sophomore Wahsontiio Stacey and blasted a shot past the glove side of Air Force junior goaltender Andrew Volkening.
“I thought it went in,” Lawson said. “It looked good, but everyone else kept playing, so I did too. I came back to the bench and everybody was [like] ‘I think that went in’ and ‘I saw the net move’ and I was like alright, let’s get a review.”
Both teams and the more than 8,000 people crowd held their collective breath, waiting more than 12 minutes until official Marco Hunt emerged from the review booth and called it a goal.
The Falcons took a 1-0 at 3:46 of the second period when freshman Paul Weisgarber scored on a rebound during a four-on-two in transition.
Sophomore Sean Bertsch took a shot from the bottom of the right circle and Madore made the stop but the rebound squirted back to Weisgarber who buried the puck in an open net.
Air Force out shot Vermont 22-14 through the first 40 minutes and held a 1-0 lead going to the final period.
Vermont battled back to tie the game at 3:56 of the third period.
Taking a feed from junior Patrick Cullity, sophomore Josh Burrows snapped a quick wrist shot from the right point that went through traffic and beat Air Force goaltender, Andrew Volkening.
The goal ended Volkening’s scoreless streak at 262:04. He entered the game with three consecutive shutouts after stopping 43 shots in a 2-0 upset of top-seeded Michigan on Friday.
Vermont struck again midway through the third period to take a 2-1 lead.
Lawson took a pass from senior assistant captain Corey Carlson and sent a shot from the right point past Volkening.
Air Force battled back to tie the score 2-2 less than two minutes later.
Bertsch ripped a shot from between the circles that hit Madore’s shoulder then trickled into the goal at 11:18 to force overtime.
Less than a minute to go in the first 20-minute overtime, Volkening initially denied a blast from the left point by Vermont sophomore defenseman Kyle Medvec, but junior Viktor Stålberg jumped on the loose puck and looked to bury the rebound to give the Catamounts the victory.
On the video replay of this by the referees, the goal was denied as Falcons’ junior Brett Nylander dove in the crease and stopped the puck just before it crossed the goal line, to make a second OT run.
With 5:50 left in the game Lawson’s heroics earned him Most Outstanding Player honors for the East Regional as he scored the winning goal.
“This is a big moment for us,” Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon said. “It hasn’t really sunk in. I don’t think to any of us right now - but we’re certainly going to enjoy this night and as I will tell our team shortly when we’ve all calmed down from the emotion that we’re not going to participate, we’re going to win it. That’s what you go to a Frozen Four for.”
Freshman Rob Madore made a career high, 46 saves. Andrew Volkening had 32 saves for Air Force.
Vermont’s only other Frozen Four appearance came in 1996 when the Catamounts lost in the national semifinal at Riverfront Coliseum against Colorado College, 4-3, in double overtime in a game that went 89:31.
The Catamounts are 3-4 all-time in NCAA Tournament games.
Britney Milazzo is a Contributor for Bleacher Report.