Don Lucia didn't sleep too well Saturday night after making what he calls the most difficult decision he has faced in nearly 40 years of hockey leadership.
He woke up feeling good about his choice, though.
"I would do the same thing," he said.
Lucia, the former Gophers men's hockey coach and current CCHA commissioner, found himself in a no-win situation that, he jokes, wasn't included in the manual when he took over the job.
Minnesota State Mankato scored in overtime to defeat Bemidji State 2-1 in the conference title game, earning an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.
The replay official quickly ruled it a good goal.
The Mavericks celebrated, shook hands with Bemidji players, accepted the Mason Cup trophy and took team photos on the ice. Most of the 5,000 fans had left the arena and were headed home or to nearby bars.
That's when Lucia learned there was a problem.
Bemidji State players who didn't play in the game rushed to the locker room after seeing additional videos on their phones from a streaming service that showed the net had been dislodged, allowing the puck to go underneath. The winning goal should not have counted.
The players alerted Beavers coach Tom Serratore, who went back to the ice while the Mavericks were still celebrating.
"It was kind of awkward going onto the ice," Serratore said.
Serratore told Lucia and MSU coach Mike Hastings what replays showed.
Lucia had to make a snap judgment.
"Do we just say, 'Too bad' or do we try to rectify it?" Lucia said. "There were two doors and neither of them looked real appetizing at that time."
Lucia decided to review the goal. Additional camera angles that the replay official apparently didn't have initially proved conclusively that the goal should not have been allowed.
The game wasn't over, even though the Mavericks had the trophy.
"Do we want to award a championship and end somebody's season on a goal that was not a goal?" Lucia said.
That's what he kept coming back to as he deliberated. Bemidji State had to win that game to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament. Lose and the season was over.
The top-ranked Mavericks knew they would be in the tournament as an at-large if they lost.
"In sports, all you can try to do is to get it right," Lucia said.
His decision created a bizarre scene and led to some backlash over restarting a game after the officials had left the ice and the winning team celebrated. (The officials hadn't left the arena, contrary to social media rumors).
MSU alum Dan Myers left the arena right after watching the Mavericks take photos with the trophy. Arena workers already were cleaning up.
Myers and his wife walked to their hotel next to the arena, went upstairs to change clothes and were getting ready for a late dinner. He received a text message informing him about the replay review about 30 minutes after the winning goal.
Myers headed back to the arena. He said workers were stunned to see fans flooding back into the building. Downtown Mankato bars emptied as fans rushed back to see if the game would resume.
Myers estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 fans returned. They weren't sure what was happening until the Zamboni came onto the ice, then the nets were brought out. Then players came out to warm up.
"It was just an insane atmosphere and surreal to be a part of," said Myers, whose livestream of the scene attracted 1,500 viewers.
The entire timeline from the apparent winning goal to resumption of warmups took about an hour. Ultimately, the Mavericks won again on a quick goal after play resumed.
Same result, strange finish.
Lucia acknowledged that his decision most likely would have been different if it had been a regular-season game. And he apologizes to fans who left the arena.
"It was fair criticism," he said.
Lucia got thrust into a tough predicament. Using replay to overturn a goal after a trophy had been awarded was a weird look. Imagine if Bemidji had won and the Mavericks had to give them the trophy.
Lucia was willing to face that possibility to get the correct result. Both coaches supported his decision.
"My first obligation was to the players, to make sure we get it right," Lucia said.
Lucia felt good about accomplishing that Sunday afternoon when we spoke. He also managed to chuckle at a byproduct of the ordeal.
"Guess what," he said, "everybody is talking about it."