Minnesota-Duluth reaches Frozen Four hockey title game

Harvard left wing Phil Zielonka, left, controls the puck against Minnesota-Duluth center Jared Thomas during the first period of an NCAA Frozen Four semifinal on Thursday in Chicago. (AP photo)

CHICAGO — Alex Iafallo had just knocked in the go-ahead goal for Minnesota Duluth with 26.6 seconds remaining when the tension really mounted.

There was a scramble in front of the net and two potential tying shots hitting the crossbar. Once the final buzzer sounded, the Bulldogs could finally celebrate.

Iafallo tipped in Willie Raskob’s shot to lift Minnesota Duluth to a 2-1 victory over Harvard in the Frozen Four semifinals Thursday night.

A rather slow game ended in spectacular fashion when Raskob took a pass from Joey Anderson and fired the puck toward the slot. Iafallo directed it between Merrick Madsen’s pads to break the tie.

“It was a good pass by Joey,” Iafallo said. “We kept it in there at the blue line. And that was pretty much the key to the goal. And Raskob made a good play. We do it in practice all the time. So simple things like that, getting the puck to the net. Just had to shovel it in.”

Minnesota-Duluth center Adam Johnson, left, and Harvard right wing Tyler Moy chase the puck during the first period of a Frozen Four semifinal on Thursday in Chicago. (AP photo)

The Crimson nearly spoiled the celebration. A flurry in front of the net ended with Harvard’s Luke Esposito hitting the crossbar with four seconds remaining.

That sent the Bulldogs (28-6-7) to their third championship game and their first since the 2011 team brought home the program’s lone title.

“You see 26 seconds and you think your season comes down to this,” Raskob said. “It was pretty crazy. They had two huge chances, hit that crossbar. The hockey gods for some reason were on our side today. I’m glad they were.”

For Harvard, it was simply an agonizing finish.

Esposito said he knew the far side of the net would be open. He didn’t want the shot to get blocked, so he went high — a tad too high, it turned out. Instead of overtime, the season ended on a wild note.