It was March 30, 1995, and Dan Shermerhorn happened to be in the right place at the right time.
The University of Maine sophomore center found the puck on his stick and was alone in front of University of Michigan goalie Marty Turco just 28 seconds into the third overtime of their NCAA Frozen Four hockey game at the Providence Civic Center.
When Shermerhorn tucked the puck behind Turco to give UMaine a 4-3 victory, it ended the longest Frozen Four game in Division I history — 100 minutes, 28 seconds. That record still stands.
It is the second longest game in UMaine history.
Following a faceoff involving Shermerhorn and Michigan’s Mike Legg, the puck popped behind Shermerhorn and linemate Reg Cardinal swatted it up to him.
“It was mostly instinct,” recalled Shermerhorn, who shifted the puck from his forehand to his backhand.
“[Turco] tried to pokecheck it and I threw it on net. It went under his glove and beside his leg,” said Shermerhorn, who lives in his hometown of Calgary, Alberta.
At the other end of the ice, UMaine goalie Blair Allison could finally celebrate.
“I remember being relieved and exhausted,” said Allison, who finished with 47 saves while Turco made 52.
“Shermy may not have been the fleetest of foot but he was pretty smart,” Allison said. “He read the pokecheck and slid it under him.”
Allison was thrilled to be part of that game, especially since he wanted to play for Michigan but was not recruited by the program.
“In the first 10 minutes, I thought we were playing an NHL team,” Allison said. “It didn’t help that I let in a bad goal.”
Michigan led 2-0 just five minutes into the game on goals by Kevin Hilton and Matt Herr but Jeff Tory’s late first-period power play goal and Brad Purdie’s goal early in the second period tied it.
Shermerhorn put UMaine ahead with 5:58 left in the game but Mike Knuble tied it 49 seconds later.
Both teams had some glorious chances to decide it late in the third period and during the overtimes.
Michigan’s Brendan Morrison rattled a shot off the post amid a 2-on-1 with Allison unable to get across.
“I was pretty fourtunate,” Allison said.
Allison stopped a John Madden breakaway and Turco made a breakaway save on Jamie Thompson.
Allison caught another break when Legg had a great chance in front after a point shot came off the boards to him.
“I slid over on my butt and stuck my glove out and he shot it into my glove. That was lucky,” Allison said.
“[Allison] bailed us out a ton in that game,” Shermerhorn recalled. “If he hadn’t stood on his head, we never would have won.”
The high from that game quickly dissipated the next night, Allison said.
It was one of the highlights of my career. But it was followed by a lowlight,” Allison said.
Boston University beat the Black Bears 6-2 in the national championship game.
“That Michigan game took a lot out of us,” Allison said.
UMaine finished with a 32-6-6 record.
Allison, Shermerhorn and defenseman Chris Imes were chosen for the all-tournament team.
“We had a lot of fun,” Allison said. “No one expected us to beat Michigan with all of those players who wound up in the NHL.”
Knuble, Madden, Turco and Morrison combined to play 3,443 career NHL regular-season games.
UMaine defensemen Brian White and Jeff Libby were the only Black Bears off that team to play in the NHL and they appeared in three games combined.
The marathon Final Four semifinal was shown on the NCAA Facebook page recently and several former UMaine players watched it and communicated with each other online.
Shermerhorn and Allison said their success started with the coaching staff composed of head man Shawn Walsh and assistants Grant Standbrook and Greg Cronin.
“There is no underestimating the power of Shawn Walsh,” Shermerhorn said. “He made you feel you had a job to do and he showed you how to mentally stay in it. Some of the things he did were very unique. You can’t give the guy enough credit.”
The most important thing Walsh did was make all of his players accountable to each other, Shermerhorn said.
“And our practices were harder than the games,” Shermerhorn said.
UMaine recruited people with character who wanted to win.
“It was truly a great learning experience hockey-wise,” Allison said. “When it comes to preparation, I never had a coach as in-depth as Shawn.”
“And he was one of the best in-game coaches around. The adjustments he made were unreal,” Allison said.
Both former players pointed to the impact of Standbrook, who Shermerhorn said was the master of teaching important individual skills that would make a player more effective.
“He taught you how to protect the puck without touching it and how to keep your position and balance down the wall,” Shermerhorn said.
Shermerhorn played two more seasons at UMaine but it was on probation for NCAA violations and couldn’t participate in the NCAA Tournament.
“That really hurt,” said Shermerhorn, who believes the Black Bears could have made a few more runs at a national championship.
UMaine went 26-9-4 in 1995-96 and 24-10-1 in 1996-97. Walsh was suspended for a year and Cronin was the interim head coach.
Shermerhorn ranks 24th on the school’s career scoring list with 140 points (71 goals, 69 assists) in 153 games. His 71 goals rank 12th.
The 46-year-old Shermerhorn, who sells petroleum products in Calgary and has a 10-year-old son Easton, played 804 regular-season games as a pro before retiring in 2014.
Following his three-year, 103-game UMaine career, Allison tended the nets for Team Canada for one season and then played in 304 professional games.
His 32 wins during 1994-1995 is the most ever by a UMaine goalie and his 62 career victories rank third.
Allison, 47, is a native of British Columbia. He manages a real estate office in Boise, Idaho, where former UMaine sniper Cal Ingraham also lives.
Shermerhorn and Allison both said they cherished their time at UMaine and loved playing in front of the energetic Alfond Arena faithful.
“I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Allison said.