The University of Minnesota-Duluth can finally call themselves champions of men’s hockey.
Minnesota-Duluth defeated Michigan in the national championship game 3-2 with a thrilling overtime victory. Minnesota native Kyle Schmidt scored the game-winning goal thanks to a great pass from Travis Oleksuk at 3:22 of overtime.
In a game that was back and forth and saw both teams deliver great goals and great saves, ultimately it was Minnesota-Duluth’s destiny as Kenny Reiter made 22 saves to lead the Bulldogs to victory. Semifinals hero for Michigan Shawn Hunwick did everything he could to lead the Wolverines, but ultimately fell short after saving 35 shots in the loss.
Michigan’s Ben Winnett scored in the first period to get the Wolverines a lead after one, but in the second, UMD roared back.
Oleksuk was the night’s hero scoring a goal to tie the game in the second period while adding an assist on the game-winning goal. Max Tardy scored his first goal of the season on the power play for UMD in the second period to put the Bulldogs ahead 2-1. Jeff Rohrkemper would knot things up late in the second scoring his third goal of the year. After a scoreless third the teams headed to overtime where Schmidt would end it for the Bulldogs.
The national championship was Minnesota-Duluth’s first for their men’s team in their history. Their women’s team won the NCAA title last year. Just like that, all of a sudden Duluth, Minnesota is college hockey’s version of title town. The school that once was home to NHL Hall of Famer Brett Hull can now claim their first title and the fans in Duluth couldn’t be prouder.
It’s not a true Frozen Four without at least one surprise and tonight, the University of Michigan and goalie Shawn Hunwick (brother of Avalanche defenseman Matt Hunwick) made sure that they had one more upset in the bag for college hockey fans this year. Michigan upset North Dakota 2-0 tonight thanks to Hunwick’s 40 saves and shutting out the Fighting Sioux and their high octane, NHL prospect loaded team.
The Wolverines got a first period goal from Ben Winnett and then an empty net goal late in the third from Scooter Vaughn to seal the victory. Michigan fell back upon a stingy defensive plan to stifle the Sioux attack. While the Sioux were able to get tons of shots on goal and control the attack zone for large parts of the game, Michigan stayed intense blocking passing lanes and getting in the face of Sioux puck carriers. For Michigan, they’ll be aiming to win their tenth National Championship on Saturday night. Their opponent is one that’s really stepped up their play in the NCAA Tournament.
Minnesota-Duluth was able to hold off a third period rally by Notre Dame to take out the Fighting Irish 4-3 to advance to their second ever National Championship game. Hobey Baker top ten finalist Jack Connolly scored what turned out to be the game winning goal early in the second period. Carolina Hurricanes prospect Justin Faulk had three assists for UMD as did forward star Justin Fontaine.
Bulldogs goalie Kenny Reiter helped make the result stand up for UMD despite giving up a shorthanded goal to Calle Ridderwall in the third that cut the lead to 4-3. Reiter stopped 31 shots to help lead the Bulldogs to the first National Championship game since 1984. That year, UMD lost to Bowling Green in quadruple overtime. That Bowling Green team featured future NHL’ers Rob Blake and Garry Galley. Caps GM George McPhee was also a key player on that team. If UMD were to win the National Championship, it would be their first men’s hockey title. UMD’s women’s team won the national championship last season.
The National Championship game will be Saturday night at 7 p.m. ET from Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.