ADRIAN, Mich. – The NCHA Harris Cup playoffs have yet to start but Saturday's contest between Adrian College and Lake Forest College had a certain playoff feel, as the Bulldogs pulled off a 6-5 overtime win over the Foresters in the regular season finale for both teams.
The Bulldogs looked to be on cruise control after playing great hockey over the first 35 minutes of the game while building a 4-0 lead. Then all of a sudden, the wheels seemed to fall off for the Bulldogs late in the second period as Lake Forest scored three times in the final 4:46 to cut the lead to 4-3 entering the third period.
The break did not slow down the Foresters as they tied the game up at the 2:38 mark of the third and then just over five minutes later took a 5-4 lead. The game switched gears back towards Adrian at 9:54 as Josh Ranalli scored his 18th goal of the season to tie the game at 5-5. Duston Hebebrand made a nice play behind the goal line on a pass to Ranalli who cut to the net and unleashed a one-timer to beat backup goaltender Billy Cooper. Starting netminder Leo Podolsky played just the first 20 minutes and allowed three goals before being replaced by Cooper.
Heading into overtime, Adrian had a great chance to win the game in regulation after a tripping penalty was assessed to Jason McAloon at the 17:27 mark. Lake Forest killed off the penalty allowing just one shot on net. Both teams finished 0-for-3 on the power play and all 11 total goals were scored on a 5-on-5 situation.
The Bulldogs looked to be down, but certainly not out, in this epic up-and-down affair at 40 seconds into the extra session when Kevin Balas got called for a tripping penalty. The Foresters had four shots on net but none past the goal line to keep the game going towards its dramatic ending. Balas had scored twice in the first period and picked a great time to record his second career hat trick. Josh Cousineau stole the puck behind the Adrian net and tried a backhand wrap-around move which was saved by Cooper. The rebound in front however belonged to Balas who slammed the puck home at 2:51 for his eighth goal of the season.
Scott Shackell made 32 saves to improve to 10-0-1 this season. Adrian captured its 20th win of the season marking seven straight seasons reaching that plateau. The five goals by Lake Forest tied the series high set in an 11-5 Adrian win back on Nov. 21, 2009. It was also the second overtime game in the series as Adrian improved to 17-0-1 against the Foresters. Adrian finished the regular season with a 10-0-2 home record marking the second season they have went unbeaten (14-0 during the 2009-10 season) at Arrington Ice Arena. Five of the 12 home games this season have went into overtime. Zach Wilson and Hebebrand scored the other Bulldog goals. Wilson scored his fifth of the season while Hebebrand notched his 18th.
Adrian will now wait to see who they will play in the upcoming NCHA Harris Cup playoffs. The rest of the league is playing or will play later tonight at press time. Once the opponent is named it will be available on www.nchahockey.org.