When the Lincoln Stars needed magic, they found it, upending Sioux Falls 5-4 in overtime on Thursday at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to win the best-of-three series 2-1.
With the game tied 4-4 and a second overtime looming, Paul Cotter sneaked past the Stampede defense and beat a stout Mikhail Berdin in net with 34.8 seconds remaining. Berdin made 44 saves as the Stars outshot Sioux Falls 49-25.
"He's a great talent and a great player," Stars coach Cody Chupp said of Cotter on the postgame radio show. "He's one that definitely has a scoring touch and the ability to score in any situation.
"Overtime when guys are getting tired, he still has that second gear that other guys just don't have."
Lincoln will move on to face the Anderson Cup champion (most points in a season) Waterloo in a best-of-five series. The first game is at 7 p.m. Saturday in Waterloo, Iowa.
Veteran leadership took over the Stars offense in the third period, as Collin Peters and Casey Dornbach each added their second goals of the playoffs to tie the score.
"I was really proud of our response, and once we were able to get that second one, we started to smell a little bit of blood and the gas was on," Chupp said. "We were four lines, everybody into it and everybody was going."
After Lincoln tied the game for the first time in the third period, the Stars needed a little more magic, this time from Eero Teravainen.
The Stars defenseman responded to Sioux Falls' go-ahead goal from Paul DeNaples with five minutes remaining, going coast-to-coast to help send the game to an extra frame.
"Once we got into overtime I thought we carried the play for most the time," Chupp said. "We were just trying to stay on the pressure, preaching if we stick to it, good things will happen."
Overtime was not the only time Lincoln needed a boost, as the Stampede held a promising 3-1 lead heading into the third period.
"We were maybe a little tentative at the start," Chupp said. "I thought we looked a little bit nervous. We were backing off in certain situations.
"That was our message between periods. That wasn't us, this isn't a way to comeback. If we are going to go down, we are going to go down pressure and we are going to go down tenacious."
Lincoln started slow, as Adam Dawe found the back of the net past Schaedig just over three minutes into the first frame. Dawe struck again at the 14-minute mark to give Sioux Falls a commanding 2-0 lead.
Despite the 2-0 deficit, Tristan Ashbrook sent Lincoln into the locker room with momentum, tallying Lincoln's first goal with 43 seconds left in the first period.