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UMD's hockey victory exorcises the ghosts of 1984

For 27 years, a four-overtime game in Lake Placid, N.Y., stood as the most-remembered game in Minnesota Duluth men's hockey history. The memory, however, was all too painful as the Bulldogs lost to Bowling Green State 5-4 in the 1984 NCAA final in what remains the longest championship game in Division I history.

An antidote was found Saturday night at St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center.

The blond, overtime-happy Cardiac Kids of 2011 rallied to beat Michigan 3-2 in sudden death on Kyle Schmidt's goal in front of 19,222 delirious fans.

Among the well-wishers outside UMD's locker room were a few members of the 1983-84 Bulldogs including former defenseman Tom Kurvers and former winger Mark Odnokon. They embraced the Bulldogs individually and expressed gratitude as alumni. Another member of that 1984 team, winger Bill Watson, is a UMD volunteer assistant coach. Former assistant Steve Rohlik, who helped recruit the current Bulldogs before joining the Ohio State staff this season, also was there, hugging everyone in sight.

"I asked if Mike Montgomery could come out of the locker room, just to shake his hand and say thank you. He came out with the (NCAA) trophy and we all had our picture taken with it," said Kurvers, 48, the 1984 Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner as a defenseman, who played 11 years in the NHL and is assistant general manager with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"When we lost (in 1984) it was painful for the night and then you put it away, and go back to school and get on with things. But this weekend it was almost like riding through it again from a completely different perspective. When the puck went in the net (on Schmidt's goal), there was an instantaneous celebration and it was so heartfelt."

Mike Sertich was home in Duluth watching the Frozen Four final on ESPN. The former UMD coach said Sunday he was elated and then some with the victory.

"There was stunned disbelief when it was over and then the tears started welling up. UMD hockey is still very near and dear to me," said Sertich, 64, a former UMD defenseman who was behind the bench for Frozen Four trips in 1984 and 1985, the first two in program history, and coached the Bulldogs through 2000. "When you have come so close and not have it happen, you can feel how much it must mean to this group.

"This team has some similarities to 1984. Each team had dynamic lines, a good power play, good goaltending, and each was sometimes overlooked. What I saw when overtime started (Saturday) was not nervousness, but intensity."

In 1984, UMD led Bowling Green 4-2 with less than eight minutes left in the third period before the Falcons rallied. A crazy puck bounce off the end boards led to the tying goal with 107 seconds left. Then, after 97 minutes and 11 seconds, Gino Cavallini got the game winner at the Olympic Arena.

Watson had scored in overtime that year to beat North Dakota in the semifinals in Lake Placid. Saturday's win washed away any bad feelings from the past 27 years.

"The pain's all gone now," Watson, 47, a Duluth financial planner from Powerview, Manitoba, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "It's all gone. That goal went into the net, and it erased all the memories.

"No one has to ask me about 1984 any more. No one has to ask me about four overtimes. All those memories are gone, because now, we have this one. This one, I'll never forget."

UMD fans gained some relief in 2009, in an NCAA West Regional semifinal game, as the Bulldogs made a miraculous rally to defeat Princeton 5-4 in overtime on a Mike Connolly power-play goal.

Yet a 2011 NCAA title has trumped everything and put UMD and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association at the top of Division I.