A decade of waiting finally ended Saturday.
The Bemidji State men’s hockey team pulled off a miraculous comeback to knock off Minnesota State 3-2 in overtime of the WCHA championship game, locking up the program’s first NCAA Tournament bid since 2010.
Where did this historic game take place?
In a computer simulation. Sorry to burst your bubble.
Ever since the coronavirus pandemic canceled the remainder of the college hockey season two weeks ago, a USCHO.com message board member has run a simulation of the postseason to provide fans with fictitious results for games that could have happened.
On the day the real WCHA title game was to be played, the computer spit out an overtime victory for the Beavers Saturday. The simulation previously gave BSU a three-game semifinal series victory over Bowling Green.
USCHO revealed the bracket for its simulated NCAA Tournament on Sunday with the 12th-seeded Beavers getting matched up with sixth-seeded Boston College in the Worcester, Mass., regional alongside No. 2 Cornell and No. 15 Michigan. (BSU and No. 11 Maine were swapped to avoid an intra-conference matchup with BC).
Check out USCHO.com to proceed even further down the rabbit hole of this imaginary postseason.
While the computer gave us goal scorers and other basic details, I thought I’d add some color to Saturday’s simulated game, one that will go down in the annals of Bemidji State hockey.
The following is what the simulation left out.
What could’ve happened
Vikings receiver and MSU graduate Adam Thielen was on hand at a sold-out Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center (real name, not a joke) for the ceremonial puck drop. Stefon Diggs was originally scheduled to join him before something came up.
Mavericks goaltender Dryden McKay started in net, though there were doubts the Mike Richter Award candidate would be available. The sophomore had suffered a mild case of hypothermia when he fell through the ice during practice earlier in the week.
Parker Tuomie gave MSU a 1-0 lead midway through the opening frame with his power-play goal. Connor Mackey fired a slap shot from the blue line minutes later to push the lead to 2-0 after the first period.
The occasion spurred the MCHSEC to employ its new high-tech, self-driving ice resurfacers for the first time. All went smoothly until the first intermission, when they became self-aware and went on strike, leaving the human-driven Zambonis to finish the job.
Marc Michaelis nearly made it 3-0 in the second period, but his wrister dinged off the crossbar. A quick trigger finger sounded the goal horn, which inexplicably remained stuck in the on position and caused an almost 10-minute delay. The horn would never be heard again.
Charlie Combs’ wrister from the high slot halved the deficit and awakened the Beavers early in the third period as they mounted an all-out attack in search of an equalizer.
With just over five minutes remaining, Charlie Gerard’s breakaway shot sailed wide and sprung BSU on the counterattack. Elias Rosén found Adam Brady for a one-timer from the near circle that evaded McKay for the tying goal.
In an effort to put his alma mater over the top, a rapidly de-aged David Backes entered for the Mavericks, though the former NHL All-Star was a nonfactor.
The game extended into overtime where Alex Adams was the man of the hour. After 16 minutes elapsed, Adams’ wrister from the far circle beat McKay as the sophomore was mobbed by his teammates in a raucous celebration. A sizable contingent of green-clad fans stuck around to watch the team accept the Jeff Sauer WCHA Championship Trophy, which was coated in maple syrup for sponsorship reasons.
Minnesota State promptly applied for NCHC membership after the loss.
It was a night no one in attendance will forget. Mainly because no one was in attendance.
Thank you for humoring me with my attempt to find some, err, humor during this uncertain time. We’ll always wonder “what if” about this college hockey season, and this exercise at least gives us a chance to ponder what could have been.