SAN DIEGO — Matt Lundgren calls it being in the right place at the right time. This last time, that simple description will be allowed.
Lundgren happened to be in front of a puck that skipped off the shoulder of teammate Jim Hau. Lundgren's only move was to slap the puck 10 feet in front of him, past Mike Carr in goal with 3:49 left, to lift United States International University to a 3-2 hockey victory over the University of Alaska Fairbanks at the San Diego Ice Arena Wednesday night.
The Gulls (14-12) must win their four remaining games for any hope of an at-large playoff berth for the only independent school in the NCAA championships.
This would be the first trip to the playoffs for USIU or any other independent team, since this is the first year independent schools have been awarded berths.
The Gulls seem headed in the right direction, having won 11 of their last 13 games. USIU lost twice to Michigan State last week.
Wednesday's victory was nothing like Tuesday's 7-2 victory, in which the Gulls dominated. In that game, Lundgren had a hat trick, including the game-winning goal.
"I've just been having a lot of fun," said Lundgren, a senior center. "Things are just going our way right now."
The first two periods were dominated by penalties, but by the third, with the score tied, 2-2, USIU controlled the puck. The Gulls outshot Fairbanks, 33-24.
"We're a team that is very effective when it is five-on-five," Coach Brad Buetow said. "With a lot of stoppage and penalties, we are not as effective. We got our momentum but we couldn't keep it early."
Fairbanks took advantage of USIU's inconsistent play, taking its first lead, 2-1, early in the second period when Ricky Pitta scored with 22 seconds left in the only power play of the period. Bryant Perrier's rebound off Gull goalie Tony Couture squirted in front of Pitta, who pushed it in from in front of the goal.
USIU countered 11:27 into the second when Brent Mowery shoved a pass to sophomore right wing Joe Schwartz, who tied the score with his shot which skipped past goalie Mike Carr into the left corner.
Dewey Wahlin scored USIU's first goal on a power play 12:25 into the first period. Two minutes later, Fairbanks scored on a 17-foot slap shot from David Holmes to tie it.