Minnesota-Duluth reaches title game as Harvard drops heartbreaker

Senior Alex Iafallo scored with 26.6 seconds left to lift No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth to a 2-1 victory over No. 3 Harvard, snapping the Crimson’s 18-game winning streak, in the semifinal of the Frozen Four college hockey playoffs on Thursday.

Set up by Willie Raskob and Joey Anderson, Iafallo went five-hole through goaltender Merrick Madsen’s legs for the winning goal at the United Center. Minnesota-Duluth will play the winner between top-seeded Denver and Notre Dame for the title.

“Honestly, I just shoveled it in,” Iafallo said. “I just kind of thought just get to it the net, and Raskob made a good pass.”

Senior Luke Esposito took a chance for the Crimson, but his shot rang off the far post and time expired. Harvard, which leads the nation in third-period goals (56), wasn’t able to rally in the semifinals.

Minnesota-Duluth goalie Hunter Miska, left, blocks a shot by Harvard center Sean Malone during the third period of a NCAA Frozen Four men's college hockey semifinal, Thursday, April 6, 2017, in Chicago. Minnesota-Duluth won 2-1. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

It was a constant puck battle throughout the game. Bulldogs head coach Scott Sandelin said his team needs to control the puck more in the next game.

“I thought we got away from that a little bit,” Sandelin said. “But it was a battle. We knew it was going to be probably not surprising both goalies were good. And fortunately we made a play at the end and got a little puck luck.”

Earlier in the third period, a Harvard goal was declared a no-goal after a referee blew an early whistle, which head Donato didn’t agree with.

“I think watching it on the replay, you know, it looked like the puck was in before he was able to blow the whistle,” said Donato. “The explanation I was given was that there was no audio on the replay. He thought the goalie at one point had it underneath his glove, and in his mind that’s when the play was over.”

The Crimson took the first strike in the first period. After Kyle Osterberg was called for boarding, senior Tyler Moy scored Harvard’s 43rd power-play goal. Three minutes later, Joey Anderson answered for the Bulldogs with a sniped one in off a feed from Dominic Toninato.

Harvard had 40 shots on goal, the most allowed by Minnesota-Duluth this season, and freshman Hunter Miska saved 39 of those shots. Madsen had 36 saves.

Thursday’s win over Harvard puts Minnesota-Duluth in line for the championship game on Saturday. This will be the Bulldogs’ third appearance in the championship game in program history and first time since Minnesota-Duluth won the whole tournament in 2011.

Harvard went 28-6-2, earning the second-most victories in program history.