Though some puck aficionados left the Xcel Center calling it the best girls hockey game they've ever seen, it was simply business as usual for Nicole Schammel.
The Wingers sophomore slammed home the top-shelf game-winner at 3:53 of the 8-minute extra session to spark a wild celebration that sends her team to the semifinals against top-seeded, top-ranked Breck (26-2).
It was her fourth goal of the game and 13th in the last three games. Freshman Reagan Haley finished with five assists, including helpers on all four of Schammel's goals.
"That's what Reagan and I do," Schammel said. "She gets me the puck and I score. That's kind of how it goes.
"I just knew I was going to score and it's going to be done."
Schammel, who also had two assists and won 17 of 24 face-offs, now has a program-record 50 goals on the season. Haley also owns a program record with 47 assists this season.
Despite those gaudy numbers, the Wingers' dreams of a state title appeared to be in serious jeopardy halfway through the third period. Red Wing trailed 4-2 after a deflection from the point sailed past goalie Lisa Nibbe, who had 21 saves, to give the Tigers a goal with just 20 seconds remain in the second period. That score held until halfway through the third when sophomore Emily Stegora lit the lamp.
But Hutchinson answered just 15 seconds later to push the lead back to two goals at 5-3. The play caused a long stoppage as the officials reviewed the play; it was initially ruled as bouncing off the crossbar.
Still, the Wingers remained undaunted in their third state appearance in the last four years.
"I kind of always knew we were going to come back," Schammel said.
Added Red Wing coach Scott Haley: "I wasn't as confident as her … but weird things happen in big games like this."
Coach Haley made some tactical changes to spark the turnaround. Specifically, he began shadowing Hutchinson standout Sara Carlson all over the ice, and put his top three skaters together up front in Schammel, Stegora and Reagan Haley.
Mostly it was the Schammel Show again, as she recorded a natural hat trick for the second straight game.
The sophomore standout scored twice in a matter of 90 seconds to knot the game 5-5, the latter of which came on a nifty deflection with 7:42 remaining in the third. The Wingers were unable to capitalize on numerous other scoring chances in the final 10 minutes of regulation as the Tigers were visibly slowed by fatigue.
Hutchinson coach Mitch Fabel said he knew his team was in trouble after Red Wing's furious charge. Tigers goalie Quin McCormick, an eighth-grader, made 36 saves, but it wasn't enough.
"The momentum was definitely coming their way," Fabel said. "We had defensive breakdowns and got frustrated.
"We were hoping to strike quick (in overtime). You could see maybe our top line was hurting a little bit. You could tell our legs were hurting and Red Wing had some jump."
Carlson, a Tigers senior headed to New Hampshire next season, proved a monster to start the game. She had two goals and two assists as Hutchinson built its lead, but was held in check after the Wingers started shadowing her. Linemate Claire Cripps also had two goals and two assists.
Red Wing, which improves to 20-7-1 on the year, outshot Hutchinson 42-26 despite getting off to a tentative started that included just five shots in the opening period. Junior Paige Haley scored early in the second period.
The Wingers advance to Friday's game with Breck as the decided underdog, but it's a role coach Haley has already embraced.
"I like the fact that we're the underdog," coach Haley said. "If anyone out there wants to root for the underdog, the outstate team, the rural team, come sit on our side. We'll take all the support we can get."
Breck defeated Chisago Lakes 7-3 Wednesday to reach the semis. It also owns regular season wins against top-ranked Hill-Murray and top-seeded Minnetonka from Class AA.