But, as often happens as playoff games drag close to the midnight hour, it's often precisely that player who ends up making the big play, and bringing about a sudden celebration.
On the Indiana Ice's 62nd shot of the night, after 86 minutes and 49 seconds of largely-even hockey, Sullivan corralled the puck behind the Waterloo net, skated in front and buried a shot past Black Hawks' goalie Cal Petersen's glove and into the net, giving the Ice a 3-2 2OT victory and squaring the Clark Cup Final series at a game apiece. The best-of-5 series shifts to Pan Am Pavilion for Games 3 and 4 next weekend, May 16-17.
The game was the longest in the Indiana Ice's USHL history, and the longest played by an Indianapolis-based team since the CHL version of the Ice went double-OT with the Memphis RiverKings in 2003.
Sullivan scored six goals in the regular season and had 22 points, but the biggest goal of his USHL career was his second straight road game-winner in the postseason. He also had the GWG in the Ice's 3-2 Game 3 victory over Dubuque.
The winning goal came 25 seconds after the Black Hawks had finished killing off Peter Krieger's tripping minor. That might have been fitting -- it was the only even-strength goal of the game.
The Ice had numerous chances, but Waterloo's Petersen stood on his head, especially early. He made 59 saves in the loss. The Ice's Jason Pawloski stopped 32 shots, including several in the first OT, in which Waterloo outshot the Ice 12-11. The Ice nearly doubled up the shots on the Black Hawks during each period of regulation -- 15-7 in the first, 15-8 in the second and 18-6 in the third. The Black Hawks' first shot on goal of the second period came 10 minutes in.
Josh Jacobs got the Ice started, scoring a goal for the second straight game. He buried a power play shot at 9:15 of the first, assisted by Austin Kosack and Patrick Newell. Waterloo's Tyler Sheehy ripped a shot on the PP midway through the second to tie the game at 1-1.
The Ice started the third period on the power play, but things didn't look good when Jake Horton fired from the rush, and John Witalia tipped it in for a shorthanded goal 39 seconds into the period to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead. But the power play continued, and Mitch Hults scored his second goal of the postseason on a feed from Newell to tie the game.
The Ice would have a number of chances -- including hitting a post in the final minute. Waterloo's best chance came on a power play with 3:13 left, but the Ice killed it off.
Newell and Kosack each had two-point games, as each had two assists. The Ice improved their road record to 4-1 in the postseason. Waterloo is now 5-1 at home.
- With two assists, Newell now has six playoff points (3G, 3A), tying him with Sam Kurker for second on the team. Scott Conway (3-5-8) leads the Ice in scoring.
- The Ice continue to get playoff balance. Sullivan, Jacobs and Hults each tallied their second goals of the postseason, giving the team eight multi-goal scorers. Twelve different players have scored in the nine playoff games. The team has 24 goals.
- Again, the Ice outscored their foes 5-on-5 -- it was 1-0 this time. Coming into the series, the Ice had allowed three 5-on-5 goals the entire postseason, although Waterloo equaled that number Friday night.
- Special teams were critical, but even. Waterloo's very potent PP was 1-4 -- hitting at the 25% clip it fired at during the regular season -- and is 1-6 in the series. However, the Hawks also had a SHG. The Ice were 2-6 on the PP and are 2-7 in the series.
- The Scott Conway-Denis Smirnov-Dwyer Tschantz trio was held off the board for the first time in five games. Conway had a four-game point streak snapped. But they carried a lot of offense -- Conway had eight shots, Smirnov seven and Tschantz three. Sullivan and Hults, two of the three goal-scorers, had six shots. Jacobs had five. Of the 62 shots the Ice registered, they came off the sticks of 17 skaters. Austin Kosack was the only one not to register a shot on goal, but he was certainly involved in the offense with two assists.
- Stick tap to Cal Petersen for making 59 saves in a losing effort.
- The 3 stars named by Waterloo (Peterson, Wiitala and Sheehy) were all Black Hawks. It's not uncommon for minor pro and junior teams to pick only home team players, win or lose, but here's the way I'd name them: 1. Sullivan (GWG), 2. Pawloski (32 saves, win), 3. Can pick between Newell/Kosack (2A each)/Petersen (59 saves, loss).
- Jacobs' PPG, ironically, came after the Waterloo goalie was whistled for tripping.
- One lineup change from Game 1: Jason Salvaggio replaced Aidan Muir in the Ice lineup. Tyler Andrew -- who also did not play Game 1 -- was the other forward scratch. Defense scratches were Chris Martenet and Vince Pedrie.
- The game was the longest in Ice history, but came well short of being the longest in Indy hockey history (although it's in the top 10). The longest was the famous Gene Peacosh 3OT winner for the Racers in Cincinnati in 1977 (after 108:20 of hockey, the longest game in WHA history). The second-longest was actually the first playoff game ever played by an Indy team -- the Providence Reds' Hal Jackson beat the Capitals after 102:20 of hockey in 1940. Jackson would later be traded to the Caps and would start the Indianapolis Youth Hockey Association. The third-longest was in 1997, when Dave Roche scored for Cleveland at 94:12 to beat the Ice and eliminate the division champs from the IHL playoffs.
- Sullivan became the fifth Indiana Ice player to end a game in OT in the franchise's 10-year history, joining Todd McIlrath (2006 vs. Cedar Rapids), Eric Kattelus (2007 vs. Green Bay), Mike Embach (2007 vs. Waterloo) and Anthony Bitetto (2010 vs. Cedar Rapids) as the team's OT goal scorers. It was the only 2OT game in Indiana Ice history, and the first 2OT game in USHL postseason history since Green Bay beat Fargo 4-3 in Game 3 of the 2010 Clark Cup Final.