Coming back from a 4 - 1 deficit, the Redbirds fought to defeat the DePaul Blue Demons in overtime on Nick Santopoalo's unique game winning goal!
With the first of two games in the series cancelled due to Friday's snow storm in the Chicagoland area, the Redbirds and Blue Demons would have just one chance to show where things stood between these two Illinois rivals on Saturday night. The series has been a great one over the years. with the record 2 - 4 for Illinois State over the past three seasons. The rivalary brought out the crowd of 400 last night, with the balance of fans in ISU's favor despite being on the road in DePaul's arena.
Illinois State got off to a great start in the first period. The Redbirds goaltender made a statement early in the period, exploding off the right post and over to the left to stop a sure goal by DePaul's Billy Allen. The Redbird faithful went wild with appreciation of the spectacular save. As the period went on, the Redbirds seemed to control the play and had the advantage in offenisve zone puck time. Jimmy Weitecha converted that advantage into a lead when he received a nice feed from Ryan Dunne and put a wicked wrist shot over the top of the DePaul netminder's glove for a 1 - 0 lead. The Redbird's carried the advantage into the lockerroom.
Period two would see a different story as DePaul dominated, outshooting the Redbirds 18 to 7 and outscoring the Redbirds 3 - 0. At the end of two it was DePaul 3 and ISU 1.
The Redbird's would need a great start to period three to close in on DePaul's lead. While the play was good, DePaul's Billy Allen got hold of a loose puck near the crease three minutes into the period and placed it top shelf to extend the DePaul lead, now a 4 - 1 game.
That would be the beginning of the end for the Blue Demons. Rather than becoming dejected, the goal inspired the Redbirds to take their game to a higher level. In what was a very clean game, the Blue Demon's defensemen Tony Klonowski went to the box for slashing with 16 minutes left in the game. He was soon followed by Kurt Akers for tripping Ryan Dunne during the power play. Suddenly the Redbirds had a way back into the game and they burst through the door.
With a 5 on 3 advantage, JImmy Weitecha scored the first power play goal of the game assisted by Dunne and Ambrosat. The crew got it done quickly enough to retain the power play, now 5 on 4. 98 seconds later it was Ryan Dunne assisted by Josh Ambrosat to close the deficit to one goal. The Redbird power play would be 2 of 3 for the game.
With 1:26 left in the game and an offensive zone face-off, the Redbirds called time-out and put together the plan for a 6 on 5 attack for the final 86 seconds in an effort to tie the game and go into overtime. With 43 seconds left on the clock, John Galvan's shot was stopped but loose in the crease. Connor Anderson found the loose puck and swept it past Depaul's netminder to tie the game and send it into overtime! The momentum had clearly shifted to the Redbirds.
It would be 5 minutes of 4 on 4 play to decide the contest. Halfway through the overtime period, a puck popped up to the right of the DePaul net and Nick Santopoalo was there to bat the puck out of the air with the shaft of his stick to give the Redbirds a dramatic come from behind win in overtime. The Redbird players and fans erupted in a memorable celebration.
Ryan Suizdak stopped 46 of 50 shots in an outstanding performance in net for the Redbirds. "It was a great game between to great teams" commented Redbirds Coach Brian Corley. DePaul's Jerry Fronek added, "whichever way it was going to end, this was a great hockey game. Very enjoyable to see that level of hockey being played between these two rivals." The coaches agreed and pledged to see eachother again in the ACHA Regional Playoffs which will occur in late February back at DePaul's home, North Shore Ice Arena.
Join the Redbirds this Friday and Saturday for what promises to be more great hockey as # 5 Ferris State busses in from Big Rapids, Michigan for the two game series. Last season the Redbirds swept the Bulldogs in Michigan.
Saturday will be senior night as our graduating seniors are recognized for their contributions to Redbird Hockey in their last home game of their careers.