Today’s opening national semifinal at the Xcel Energy Center pitted the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs for a spot in Saturday night’s national championship final. Notre Dame sent Mike Johnson in between the pipes and Minnesota-Duluth countered with Kenny Reiter.
Forty-nine seconds into the game, Notre Dame struck first when Jeff Costello scored a goal from the right wing on even strength. Ryan Guentzel and Minnesota Wild draftee Sean Lorenz assisted Costello on the game’s first strike of blood. Early on, you could tell that Kenny Reiter was stifled. At 2:18, Notre Dame’s David Gerths was sent to the sin bin for hooking. UMD’s power play would strike forty-six seconds later, at 3:04, when JT Brown scored in front of Mike Johnson. Justin Faulk and Justin Fontaine assisted Brown on the power play goal. The game was fast and furious in its opening minutes and Notre Dame’s David Gerths would go to the sin bin once again at 4:38 for hooking, giving Minnesota-Duluth another power play with which to work. Shots at the 5:30 mark favored the Irish 3-1, but the game was still tied at one apiece. Coincidental hitting after the whistle penalties were called at 7:29 when Notre Dame sent TJ Tynan and Minnesota-Duluth sent Joe Basaraba. Four on four play would commence for the next two minutes. Shots after the penalties ended still favored Notre Dame 5-4, and at 9:46, TJ Tynan scored the Irish’s second goal on even strength. Ryan Guentzel notched his second assist along with Nick Larson. The goals would keep on coming, and the Bulldogs notched the tying goal sixty-four seconds later, as Kyle Schmidt scored on even strengnth at 10:52. Assists went to Joe Basaraba and Justin Faulk. At 12:30, shots on goal favored Notre Dame 7-5, and the upward trend would continue on the offensive upswing for the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame would send TJ Tynan to the box for the second time as he was called for tripping at 13:10. Knowing Minnesota-Duluth’s power play potential, the Bulldogs would logically come out firing on the man-up. Just as predicted, UMD’s power play would light the lamp. Mike Connolly scored the goal on the man-up with assists going to Justin Fontaine and Justin Faulk at 13:31. Minnesota-Duluth’s Mike Connolly would put the Bulldogs down at 14:16 when he was sent to the bin for hooking. Notre Dame’s power play couldn’t sniff out any true scoring chances and the Bulldogs returned to full strength two minutes later. Shots at the 17:00 minute mark favored Notre Dame 12-7, and it was hard telling who truly got the better of the scoring chances. The Bulldogs and Fighting Irish would play tooth and nail down to the end of the first period, and shots at the end of one favored Notre Dame 15-11. Power plays had Notre Dame going 0-1 while Minnesota-Duluth went 2-3.
The first seventy-four seconds only were enough time for Notre Dame to fire off the first shot of the period, and the fast play indicated a quick and potentially lethal period on tap from a defensive standpoint. Jack Connolly would commit a foolish check on a Notre Dame defenseman at 2:35 and get a cross-checking minor for his efforts. Notre Dame’s second power play was on tap, and Kenny Reiter with his UMD Bulldog teammates had the stronger opening minute. The second minute of Fighting Irish power play produced nothing to write home about, and the game was still 3-2 at the five minute mark of period two. Shots were tied even at two apiece through the opening five minute quarter. Notre Dame’s Riley Sheahan would be called for interference at 5:32 for the Bulldogs fourth power play of the afternoon. Minnesota-Duluth would extend its lead with the man-advantage at 5:51 on a simple tic-tac-toe play. The goal would go to Jack Connolly with assists going to JT Brown and Justin Fontaine on the power play goal. Nineteen seconds elapsed between the penalty and the goal for those scoring at home. The intensity would ratchet up as the middle of the period came upon us and at 6:56, Notre Dame’s Riley Sheahan would be called for holding. The power play would get some shots for Minnesota-Duluth bringing their game total to sixteen, but the two goal lead didn’t increase to three. Through thirty minutes, overall shots on goal were 17-15 to the Fighting Irish. As the period drew into its latter stages, play slowed up a great deal compared to early in the game. Minnesota-Duluth’s David Grun would get a holding penalty at 13:12, giving Notre Dame a chance to come back from two goals down. However, the Minnesota-Duluth defense in front of Kenny Reiter was solid enough to kill the holding penalty on its own, holding the Irish to no shooting at all. Down the stretch in the second period, Notre Dame were slowly realizing that they needed to get more pucks on net to keep pace with Minnesota-Duluth. UMD’s JT Brown would be called for roughing at 17:16, giving Notre Dame yet another power play with which to work. The man-advantage for Notre Dame couldn’t produce and we got to the end of the period with Minnesota-Duluth outshooting Notre Dame 8-4 for a dead heat at nineteen apiece through forty minutes, and power plays had Minnesota-Duluth at 3-5 through two periods while Notre Dame was 0-4.
The first penalty of the third period came at thirty-one seconds into the period as Notre Dame’s Riley Sheahan was called for hitting from behind, which is a two-minute penalty. The Fighting Irish would use the penalty kill to take advantage when Calle Ridderwall would score shorthanded at 2:05 giving the Bulldogs a 4-3 lead. Ridderwall was assisted by Ben Ryan and Sean Lorenz on the shorthanded marker. It was up to Notre Dame to find the tying goal, and with shots at 3:45 at 22-21 in favor of the Irish, it seemed as if the tying goal was coming sooner rather than later (excuse the Oklahoma pun). From the 0:31 mark onto the ten-minute mark in the final period, the teams skated without sending a man to the bin to serve a jail sentence. Shots at the fifty-minute mark (ten minutes into the third) were 27-21 to the gold domes from South Bend. The Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs would send Mike Connolly for slashing at 11:14, giving Notre Dame its fifth power play of the game. The ensuing man-advantage favored UMD in its opening minute, but Notre Dame did have something to play for. The Fighting Irish would get their chances but Minnesota-Duluth’s penalty kill would seize momentum from the Irish with a successful penalty kill. Down the stretch, Notre Dame not only couldn’t get a shot through on goal, but the Fighting Golden Domes were also awaiting a Minnesota-Duluth Bulldog mistake. Shots at the fifty-six minute mark favored Notre Dame 33-21. With 1:08 remaining, Notre Dame decided to pull starting goaltender Mike Johnson and the play that ensued didn’t favor the Irish as Minnesota-Duluth advanced to the national championship game with the 4-3 win. Shots at the end of the game favored Notre Dame 34-21. Power plays finished up with Minnesota-Duluth at 3-5 and Notre Dame at 0-6.
hornface.com’s coverage of the Frozen Four continues tonight with the second semifinal between North Dakota and Michigan, scheduled for a 8:30pm ET start. Email [email protected] with your comments and questions, or leave them below. Facebook users can search “National College Hockey Examiner” and get exclusive analysis while chatting with other college hockey fans too.
Until 8:30 tonight, I’ll see you at the rink!