It took Vermont two games, two overtimes and a lengthy video review, but the Catamounts are on the way to the Frozen Four for the first time since 1996.
Dan Lawson's shot at 14:10 of the second overtime was ruled a goal after a long video review, giving Vermont a 3-2 victory over Air Force in the championship game of the NCAA East Regional at Bridgeport, Conn., on Saturday night.
Play continued for nearly two minutes after Lawson's shot -- play didn't stop until 4:01 was left in the period -- and only after a review of about 12 minutes did officials decide that his blast had gone into and through the net. The announcement triggered a wild celebration among the green-and-gold-clad Vermont fans at the Arena at Harbor Yard.
"I came off the bench and got a perfect pass from Stacey Wahsontii, let it go and looked up," Lawson said. "I thought it went in. But everybody kept playing and so did I."
But Lawson said during a postgame TV interview that when he came to the bench, his teammates told him they thought his shot went through the net.
So did the coaches.
"I think John Micheletto, my assistant coach, and I were the ones screaming," Vermont coach Kelvin Sneddon. "I saw Danny take the shot, I saw the back of the net move and, on the other side, the puck took a weird bound after that. I thought, that was kind of weird."
Vermont (22-11-5) advanced to the Frozen Four for the second time in school history, joining the 1996 team. The Catamounts will face the winner of the Northeast Regional final Sunday between top-seeded Boston University and New Hampshire in the national semifinal at Washington on April 9. All three teams are members of Hockey East.
It was a heartbreaking loss for Air Force (28-11-2), which upset top-seeded Michigan 2-0 on Friday night for its first-ever tournament win. The Atlantic Hockey champs were 20 minutes away from their first Frozen Four after taking a 1-0 lead into the locker room after the second period on a goal by Paul Weisgarber.
Volkening's bid for a fourth consecutive shutout ended 3:56 into the third period when Josh Burrows' slap shot went through a screen and into the net, ending his shutout streak at 262 minutes, 14 seconds. Lawson then gave Vermont a 2-1 lead at 9:29 of the third period with a slap shot from center point, but Air Force's Sean Bertsch tied it 1:49 later by beating Rob Madore, who made 46 saves for Vermont, with a shot from the high slot
As to what happened at the end?
"You probably should ask the referees," Air Force coach Frank Serratore said. "They had the best look at it."
Material from college Web sites and national broadcast media was used in this report.