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NCAA Frozen Four: Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs Win 1st NCAA Hockey Title In Overtime Thriller

Minnesota-Duluth, Notre Dame, North Dakota and Michigan are headed to the Frozen Four, which will be held at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

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NCAA Frozen Four: Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs Win 1st NCAA Hockey Title In Overtime Thriller

They always say you remember your first….

After fifty long years of having a hockey program, twenty-seven years since a four-overtime loss in the NCAA championship game and three other Frozen Four trips, the University of Minnesota-Duluth can finally call themselves college hockey’s best team. The Bulldogs won their first NCAA Championship Saturday night at the Xcel Energy Center over the University of Michigan with a 3-2 overtime victory in front of 19,222 screaming fans. Kyle Schmidt scored the winning goal for Duluth 3:22 into the extra period off of a Travis Oleksuk pass.

"I didn’t do a whole lot," Schmidt said. "My linemates were working their butts off in the corner. Luckily it was a gimme because I was too late to bury anything else."

The game started off well for the Wolverines, as they were able to draw first blood. After a goal by Carl Hagelin was waved off due to the whistle being blown, Ben Winnett scored his fifth goal of the season (and second of the Frozen Four) right off a faceoff with 5:18 left in the first to give Michigan a 1-0 lead. That has normally been enough for Red Berenson’s team as they were 22-1-3 this season after scoring the first goal but the Bulldogs rallied for two goals in the second. The first came from Oleksuk, who scored right inside the circle 1:39 into the period and scored the first goal on Michigan’s Shawn Hunwick in fifty-five shots.

The second goal came eight minutes later from unlikely goal scorer Max Tardy. Tardy, a freshman fourth-line forward scored his first collegiate goal on the powerplay (which he wasn’t even on a month ago) off of his own rebound. Michigan tied the game at 2 towards the end of the period with a goal from one of their own fourth-liners, Jeff Rohrkemper, and the game stayed that way with both goalies standing tall until Schmidt’s goal in overtime.

The big difference in tonight’s game was once again special teams. Although Michigan became the first team to successfully shut down the Bulldogs power play, the Wolverines put themselves in a whole by going shorthanded nine times. Three players had two minor penalties and eight of the ten overall penalties were taken by underclassmen. While Duluth only scored once (way below their tournament average of 33.8%), the added pressure of having to skate with four men so many times did eventually eat away at Michigan. They were out-shot 38-24 and allowed Minnesota-Duluth to skate past them and be the better team for most of the evening.

In addition, Duluth was able to overcome Michigan keeping the Bulldogs’ first line of Jack Connolly, Mike Connolly and Justin Fontaine off the scoreboard. The three teammates have each put over fifty points and eighteen goals but the Bulldogs relied on the depth of their team to score. After the game, Duluth coach Scott Sandelin commented on this, saying "part of the reason….early in the year we needed to find someone like a J.T. Brown come in as a freshman and be an impact player. And we put him in the positon, and he had a phenomenal year, obviously, phenomenal game tonight."

And with the play of J.T. Brown, of Justin Faulk, of the Connollys and Fontaine and most importantly of Kyle Schmidt, it’s no surprise that the Bulldogs reign supreme in 2011.


Other Quotes and Notes:
The Frozen Four All-Tournament Team
G Shawn Hunwick Michigan
D Justin Faulk UMD
D Jon Merrill Michigan
F Ben Winnette Michigan
F J.T. Brown UMD
F Kyle Schmidt UMD

Most Outstanding Player: J.T. Brown UMD

-Schmidt was the only player on the Bulldogs who did not dye his hair due to a wedding. Like Grant Potulny (the only non-Minnesotan on the 2002 Gophers), he scored the winning goal.
-This was the fourth consecutive Frozen Four in St. Paul to head to overtime.
-Thursday’s semifinal games rated a 0.24 (early game) and 0.40 (late game) on ESPN2
-Minnesota-Duluth is the third consecutive team to win a national championship in their home state when given the opportunity. The two others are Minnesota (2002) and Wisconsin (2006).
-Jack Connolly joins his brother Chris, who won a national title with BU in 2009 as national champs.
-Both the Twins and Wild plan to honor Minnesota-Duluth tomorrow.
-Schmidt on being asked if he had to give back the National Unsung Hero Award: "I guess if I have to, I will. I’ll take a national championship any day of the week."
-J.T. Brown on the crowd: "It’s kind of hard not to get up and play 100 percent when you have 19,000 people. So I just feel like the crowd, played off the crowd and the crowd was great today."


NCAA Frozen Four: North Dakota's Genoway Makes Most Of Second Chance

If everything went to plan, Chay Genoway would not be at the Xcel Energy Center this weekend. The fifth-year senior had his 2009-2010-season end prematurely after suffering a concussion against St. Cloud State in the captain's ninth game. With a chance to head to the pros as undrafted free agent, Genoway instead decided to take a medical redshirt and to Grand Forks for one last chance at a national championship. Now back in St. Paul for his third Frozen Four, Genoway has no regrets about coming back. "It has been a fun ride so far," Genoway said. "Hopefully we have a lot of memories to come."

Of course, the decision to return is much easier to make when one is returning to a lineup as dangerous as North Dakota. Whether it is senior Brad Malone, junior Jason Gregoire or sophomore Danny Kristo, opposing teams must be careful. Pick one player or line to zone in on and another will make them pay. And then there is Hobey Baker finalist Matt Frattin who led the nation with thirty-six goals a season after being thrown off the team.

Between the pipes for North Dakota is sophomore goalie Aaron Dell, whose play this season cemented him as the number one goalie over incumbent Brad Eidness. Dell has especially played well recently, only giving up one goal in the two regional games and keeping North Dakota alive in the first overtime of the WCHA Final Five Championship.

Conference: Western Collegiate Hockey Association

Record: 32-8-3 (21-6-1 WCHA) WCHA Regular Season Champion

Road to the Frozen Four:

WCHA Tournament Champion (#1 Midwest)

Defeated RPI 6-0 in first round

Defeated Denver 6-1 in regional final

Why North Dakota will win their eighth national championship: It is their tournament to lose. North Dakota is presently on a fifteen-game unbeaten streak, has won both the MacNaughton Trophy (as the WCHA regular season champs) and Broadmoor Trophy (as the WCHA Final Five champs) and is playing four hours from home. Coach Dave Hakstol has his squad operating on all cylinders and despite the added media attention the team has had no egos creep in. Plus it's hard to bet against a team which beat their opponents, including a team which took North Dakota to double-overtime a week before, by a combined score of 12-1.

Why North Dakota won't win: Again, it is their tournament to lose.  In a single-game elimination tournament, the best team often doesn't win and no one knows that better than North Dakota. They have been to the Frozen Four five times since their last NCAA hockey championship in 2000 and have suffered some devastating losses (including two blowouts by Boston College) on the big stage. If North Dakota does not play a full sixty minutes, the other teams in the Frozen Four will make sure that they pay.


NCAA Frozen Four: Michigan Aims For Tenth National Championship

For the Michigan seniors, coming back to St. Paul for their second Frozen Four in four seasons is poetic. In 2007, the Wolverines came to the Xcel Energy Center to play in the season-opening Icebreaker Tournament with Boston College, Minnesota and RPI. Now they have the opportunity to end their careers where it started and bring home a record tenth NCAA hockey championship.

Everything starts up front for the Wolverines this season. Led by their three top scorers (and seniors) Carl Hagelin, Louie Caporusso and Matt Rust, Michigan is a team which can light the lamp; having score or more goals twenty-one times this season. However as good as the three seniors are, the Wolverines are able to spread scoring around. That has paid off as sophomore Kevin Lynch has stepped up recently scoring two goals against Nebraska-Omaha in the first round.

On the other spectrum, their blue line has star freshmen Jon Merril and Mac Bennett along with junior Brandon Burlon. Burlon is a game-time decision tonight after suffering esophagitis four weeks ago and his presence has been missed. Between the pipes is Shawn Hunwick.

Conference: Central Collegiate Hockey Association
Record: 26-10-4 (20-7-1-0 CCHA) and CCHA regular season champs

Road to the Frozen Four:

At large bid (#2 West)
Defeated Nebraska-Omaha 3-2 (OT) in First Round
Defeated Colorado College 2-1 in Regional Final

Why the Wolverines will win their tenth national championship: In two words, Red Berenson. The legendary coach has been to eleven Frozen Fours and has won two championships. If anyone can get their team to be firing on all cylinders against North Dakota, it is he. In addition, the Wolverines have also proven themselves against WCHA competition, going 4-2-1 against the conference this season, and defeating Nebraska-Omaha and Colorado in the West Regional.

Why the Wolverines won’t win: Michigan is playing North Dakota in the heart of WCHA country. While the players expect a hostile atmosphere and thrive playing in it, the composition of the crowd should be an interesting story. Also, as much can be made about the veteran leadership, North Dakota counters Michigan veteran leaders with a senior class of their own. Then there’s trying to break a fifteen game unbeaten streak…


NCAA Frozen Four: Minnesota-Duluth Looking For Some Home-Cooking

In the words of defenseman Mike Montgomery, "It is a good time to be a Bulldog." This is the first Frozen Four appearance for the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs since 2004 and it comes at the right time. Xcel Energy Center may not be brand-new Amsoil Arena but the Bulldogs will take some home-state cooking at this year’s Frozen Four. Scott Sandelin’s squad is hoping to follow the lead of the last two teams who played a Frozen Four in their home state (Wisconsin in 2006 and Minnesota in 2002) and finally win the school’s first national championship.

Despite that, the Bulldogs players don’t feel as if being the only team left from Minnesota and playing 150 miles from Duluth in St. Paul has lead to any extra pressure. Goalie Kenny Reiter is approaching the Frozen Four "with a business-like attitude;" an approach shared by his teammates. Each of them (with the exception of Kyle Schmidt) has bleached their hair in an effort to bond. It’s a decision that has surely paid off so far as the team has rallied past the defection of defenseman Dylan Olsen midway through the season.

Conference: Western Collegiate Hockey Association
Record: 24-10-6, (15-8-5 WCHA)

Path to the Frozen Four:
At large bid (#3 seed East)
Defeated Union 2-0 in First Round
Defeated Yale 5-3 in Regional Final

Why the Bulldogs will win their first national championship:
Beside the fact that the Frozen Four is in Minnesota and the last two teams who played in their home state won, Duluth has been special teams play. In the two tournament games, the team has scored five powerplay goals while their penalty killed a 5×3 against Yale and held Union’s strong powerplay off the scoreboard in nine opportunities. If the Bulldogs can continue that type of special teams play and get the two Connollys (Jack and Mike) and Justin Fontaine going, they will put themselves in a great position to win their first title.

Why the Bulldogs won’t win: Size. Duluth has eleven players shorter than six feet and another seven at that height. Teams can win with speed in college hockey (just look at Boston College over the past few seasons). However compared to the Irish who have four defensemen over 6’1" and North Dakota’s physical play, the Bulldogs’ strength can be neutralized.


NCAA Frozen Four: Notre Dame Adjusting To Life As Hockey Power

For the second time in four years, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have made it to the Frozen Four. A school not traditionally known for hockey, Notre Dame has become a relevant force to be reckoned with in a short time frame. For a school that had never made the NCAA Tournament before 2004, the Irish have won two CCHA regular-season titles, two CCHA tournament titles and are looking forward to a new on-campus rink. Most of the credit has to go to Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson, who won two national titles with Lake Superior State.

At the same time, Notre Dame has also dealt with some of the other issues of being a program on the rise. Two blue-chip prospects left the Irish early (or in the case of Jared Tinordi never made in on campus), following a trend started with current Anaheim Duck Cam Fowler last season. Despite that, Notre Dame has been able to overcome adversity and make it to St. Paul.

University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Conference: Central Collegiate Hockey Association
Record: 25-13-5 (18-7-3-2 CCHA)

Path to the Frozen Four:
At-large bid (#3 seed Northeast)
Defeated Merrimack 4-3 OT in First Round
Defeated New Hampshire 2-1 in Regional Final

Why the Fighting Irish can win their first national championship: They are hot at the right time. Anders Lee, T.J. Tynan and goalie Mike Johnson have all played well since Notre Dame ended the regular season 2-4 and began Tournament play. As coach Jeff Jackson said, "it’s a one game situation where anything is possible. If you play sixty solid and disciplined minutes, our team will win."

Why the Fighting Irish won’t win: Youth. This year’s team features three seniors who were in Denver three years ago; however Notre Dame’s lineup feature twelve freshmen. Although the Irish are happy with the chemistry of their team, the hot play of two freshmen (Lee and Tynan) can cool off on the big stage . In addition, Notre Dame is 0-2-1 this season against the WCHA, including a 6-3 loss to North Dakota.

Minnesota connections:
-3 players (Freshman Anders Lee [Edina], Sophomore Nick Larson [Apple Valley] and Senior Ryan Guentzel [Woodbury]) are from the state
-Junior defensemen Nick Condon is the brother of Gophers forward Nate Condon
-The Minnesota Wild in the 4th round of the 2008 Draft drafted junior defenseman Sean Lorenz


NCAA Hockey Tournament: Frozen Four Bracket And Schedule

The 2011 NCAA Hockey Tournament, more commonly known as the Frozen Four, will be played at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul from April 7-9. After a wild weekend of hockey, the field is set, and we know which teams will be vying for the National Championship. Here is the schedule.

Thursday, April 7:

Minnesota-Duluth Vs. Notre Dame, 4 p.m., ESPN2:

Minnesota-Duluth advanced to the Frozen Four with a (somewhat surprising) 5-3 victory over Yale, the Tournament's top overall seed. They got three power play goals in that game to help them advance. Notre Dame advanced with a 2-1 win over New Hampshire on Sunday. This is Notre Dame's first Frozen Four appearance since they were beaten by Boston College 4-1 in the 2008 National Championship game.

North Dakota Vs. Michigan, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2:

North Dakota showed that they will be a force to be reckoned with in this Tournament with a 6-0 victory over RPI on Saturday, and a 6-1 win over Denver on Sunday. Michigan had a 2-0 lead over Colorado College in the third period, and was able to hold on for a victory to advance to this stage.

The finals of the tournament will be played on Saturday, April 9.

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