ST.PETER - There are comebacks and then there are comebacks.
Jon Kopacek's slap shot from the high slot with 3:17 left in overtime beat Willmar goalie Levi Goosman and the New Ulm to a 5-4 win in a Section 3A semifinal game at Gustavus Adolphus College.
Kopacek's score capped comebacks from New Ulm that saw it erase a 3-0 Willmar lead after the first period and a 4-3 Willmar lead midway through the final period.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
New Ulm’s Brandon Helget (5) battles Willmar’s Hunter Mottinger (8) for the puck during the first period of their playoff game Saturday at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter.
For more photos of this event go to cu.nujournal.com
Brandon Helget scored two goals for New Ulm with Judd Davis and Wyatt Peterson each scoring a goal.
Peterson added two helpers with Davis adding an assist.
New Ulm goalie Brach Kraus stopped 29 Willmar shots.
New Ulm, now 17-10, will face unbeaten Luverne (24-0-1) at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the Don Roberts Ice Arena for a trip to the state tournament.
"This was a heck of a game," said New Ulm coach Erik Setterholm. "These boys never quit. I have never been a part of a comeback like this."
New Ulm tied the game at 4-4 with 7:36 left in the third period when Helget collected his second goal of the game on a feed from Peterson.
The score remained that way thanks to Kraus, who continually came up big setting the stage for Kopacek and the Eagles.
"I just seen Alex Stark set up the pass," Kopacek said. "We had been working on that play in practice and coach had been yelling for it all day long. So it felt good to come through."
But early on it looked like overtime was about as possible as a thaw when Willmar took a 1-0 lead just 23 seconds into the game on a Hunter Mottinger goal and then added two more scores for a 3-0 lead after the first 17 minutes.
"I think that maybe we had the jitters or the nerves," Kopacek said. "But we knew that we had to come out of it and we did."
Helget began the comeback at the 5:09 mark of the second period when he beat Goosman with Peterson and Davis each getting helpers.
Peterson then cut the lead to 3-2 just 7 minutes later with Davis and Helget getting helpers before Davis tallied an unassisted goal at the 12:32 mark to knot the game at 3-3 going into the final period.
"The biggest thing is when you get down 3-0 the heads hang and you roll over and die," Setterholm said. "But these guys did not. We talked about it after the first period was that the only thing we can do was to try and win the second period and the third."
New Ulm stayed even in the third period matching Willmar's goal setting the overtime heroics and a matchup with Luverne.
"Unbeaten Luverne and no pressure on us," Setterholm said.