One of Robin Caruthers’ memories of the longest game in the history of the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Championship is how he felt afterward.
“I was stiff for two days,” said Caruthers, whose goal 3:53 into the fourth overtime gave his St. Lawrence team a 3-2 victory against Boston University in the East Regional on March 26, 2000, and sent the Saints to the Frozen Four. “I remember it was an early game but it didn’t end until after 6 p.m.”
The game lasted more than the length of two full hockey games (123:53) and was more than a full period longer than the previous longest NCAA Tournament game (100:28 by Maine and Michigan in 1995). While the length of the game was one thing, the play on the ice was what made the 2000 game so much fun to be a part of according to those who were there.
“It was just an amazing game,” St. Lawrence head coach Joe Marsh said. “Throughout the overtime periods, one team would have a two-on-one break and the other team would counter with a three-on-two break. It was just back and forth.”
“It was like we would alternate overtimes,” said Derek Gustafson, who was the winning goal keeper for the Saints. “It seemed like they’d really take it to us in one overtime and we would answer in the next period.”
In all, Gustafson made 72 saves which is still the second-most saves in an NCAA Tournament game and the seventh-highest total in any game regular-season or postseason. His counterpart, Rick DiPietro, made 77 saves, an NCAA Tournament record and the most saves in any collegiate hockey game since 1965.
The pair was two of the top freshman goal keepers in the country in 1999-2000 and both signed professionally after the season. Gustafson signed as a free agent with the Minnesota Wild. DiPietro was the first overall pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft and is currently in his 11th year with the New York Islanders. He has been an all-star (2008) and he represented the United States in the 2006 Olympics.
After BU tied the game at 2-2 with just less than nine minutes left in the third period, Gustafson and DiPietro both pitched shutouts for more than 70 minutes and through three full overtime periods. During the first three overtimes Gustafson recorded 36 saves without allowing a goal while DiPietro faced 38 shots without a tally.
With both teams no doubt feeling the effects of over 120 minutes on the ice in the fourth overtime, St. Lawrence’s Jim Lorentz forced a Boston University turnover and got the puck ahead of the BU defense. Caruthers got a shot on DiPietro who made his 77th save (43rd save in OT), but Caruthers was able to get to the rebound, put the puck past DiPietro and set off the celebration.
“After the initial dog pile on the ice, everyone was pretty exhausted in the locker room,” Caruthers said. “But we had almost two weeks before the next game so we had some time to enjoy the win in the build up to the Frozen Four.”
|Men’s Ice Hockey Record Book|
|Men’s Ice Hockey Championship Records|
|Frozen Four Records|
|Current DI Men’s Ice Hockey Statistics|
“One thing that stood out was the conditioning of both teams, especially BU since it had already played once in the regional,” Marsh said. (As the No. 2 seed in the East Region, St. Lawrence had a first round bye).
“I’m now 34 years old and I scored my share of goals,” Caruthers said. “But that’s probably by far the number one goal I’ve ever scored.”
In all, the game still holds four NCAA Championship records and it was the third longest game overall in NCAA history (regular season or postseason). Two weeks later, Boston College scored two goals in the final two minutes to end St. Lawrence’s national title hopes with a 4-2 victory in the national semifinal.
“In retrospect, it was certainly a very special game and one of my favorite memories,” Marsh said. “I’ve always had a lot of respect for the BU program and I think Jack Parker is one of great coaches in our game. So, for us to play in that game, in that atmosphere, against a team with the status of the BU program was very special and I feel fortunate to have been a part of it.”
The NCAA Stats at 75 series will be published weekly through May and will include interesting statistical championship stories and all-time great performances.