Minneapolis, MN – The University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs are the 2017 Frozen Faceoff Champions continuing a trend that has seen the previous years runner-up capture the trophy. However, it wasn’t easy, it wasn’t without controversy and it emphasized the importance of specials teams play both on offense and defending. The victory was secured on a two-man advantage with just 50.3 seconds remaining in regulation by rookie Joey Anderson. And, just like that it ended a game that appeared to be headed to overtime after 27 penalties for 57 minutes, 57 shots on goal and four of the previous six goals in the contest decided on special teams.
Penalties played a significant role the entire game but in particular set the tone for the rest of the game in period one. With the Bulldogs whistled for 6 penalties in the first period vs 2 for North Dakota, the Bulldogs appeared to have themselves in quite a hole. The Bulldogs weathered a hooking penalty to captain Dom Toninato 1:16 into the game but were unable to do so after a hooking call to Avery Peterson at 9:52. UND sophomore forward Brock Boesser made them pay with a wicked one-timer from the left dot for his 16th goal of the season and a 1-0 UND lead. Another penalty at 13:33 to Willie Raskob for tripping again had the Bulldogs in a precarious position being outshot 11-4 up to that point in the game. Fending off the Raskob penalty, UND’s top defenseman,Tucker Poolman struggled off the ice with an injury and in turn, UMD’s top defenseman, Neal Pionk drove the UND net barreling into netminder Cam Johnson. A melee ensued with six penalties called with the most significant a five-minute major to Pionk for charging. The end result required the Bulldogs to kill a 5X3 for 1:05 and then the balance of the major penalty to Pionk for another 3:52. The Bulldogs survived and skated out the final 35 seconds of the period without additional damage and fortunate to be down 1-0 by periods end.
The officials seemed to miss a call as time ran out in the period when UND’s Cole Smith lanced Neal Pionk with his stick – possible payback for Pionks earlier hit on Cam Johnson but it wasn’t called providing a fitting end to a period consumed by penalties. The Bulldogs were outshot 16 to 4 by the Fighting Hawks, were on the defensive most of the period and certainly needed to re-group during intermission.
Possibly buoyed and invigerated by their ability to survive the adversity of the first period, the Bulldogs came out flying and took control of the game. First, Dom Toninato scored a rebound goal in the paint at 1:30 of the period to tie the game at 1-1. It was his 15th goal of the year with assists to linemates Joey Anderson and Alex Iaffalo. A mere 17 seconds later rookie and first-round draft choice Riley Tufte (Kuhlman | Peteson) buried a wrister from the right circle for his 8th goal of the year and suddenly the Bulldogs had a one-goal lead. A penalty for roughing to UND’s Trevor Olson added additional adrenaline to the push by the Bulldogs and they cashed in 14 seconds later with a power play goal by Adam Johnson (Pionk | Iafallo). Again, it was a shot from the right circle that beat Johnson for a 3-1 UMD advantage. But, the Bulldogs couldn’t stay out of the penalty box as Jared Thomas was penalized for tripping at 7:21 and 15 seconds later defenseman, Brendan Kotyk was whistled for high sticking presenting North Dakota with another 5X3 advantage for 1:45. And, the Fighting Hawks responded at 9:00 with a sharp angle one-timer by first-year forward Tyson Jost (Olson | Boesser) with his 16th goal of the season and second power play goal of the game for UND. The goal narrowed the Bulldog lead to 3-2 by periods end. Nevertheless, in a spirited period of play by UMD, they outshot the Fighting Hawks 15-9 and outscored them three to one in the period.
The third period merely accentuated the lack of discipline by both teams as 12 penalties were called and they certainly dictated the final outcome of the game. Up until the 15:48 mark of the period, nine penalties were called – four on UMD and five on UND, mainly roughing penalties. However, neither team was able to take advantage with UMD 0/1 and UND 0/2. A tripping penalty to Parker Mackay at 15:49 and a hooking call to Alex Iaffalo at 17:02 again put the Fighting Hawks on a 5×3 advantage for 47 seconds and Trevor Olson, who has elevated his play in the playoffs scored the game-tying goal 12 seconds after the penalty to Iafallo was called. On their heels once again, the Bulldogs were able to kill the remaining 1:46 of the penalty just to hold onto the tie as the end of regulation was nearing. But, the Fighting Hawks got themselves in another jam with Austin Poganski getting whistled for interference at 18:08 and to make matters worse, Joel Janatuinen was penalized for holding 14 seconds later handing the Bulldogs a 5×3 power play for the balance of regulation. It took the Bulldogs less than a minute to capitalize with first-year forward Joey Anderson burying the puck in traffic at 19:09 for another Bulldogs one-goal lead and 4-3 final earning them their first Frozen Faceoff Trophy.
The game produced a total of 58 shots on goal with UND’s Cam Johnson stopping 19 of 23 UMD shots in a losing effort. UMD’s Hunter Miska picked up the win turning aside 32 of 35 shots on goal and improving his record to 24-4-5. There were 27 penalties for 57 minutes called in the contest. The Bulldogs were successful on 2 of 6 opportunities while North Dakota scored on 3 of 10 power play opportunities. UMD was penalized 15 times for 33 minutes and UND 12 times for 24 minutes. UND had a 50 to 30 advantage in faceoffs and attempted 57 shots while UMD attemped 25.
Adam Johnson and Joey Anderson led the Bulldogs with a goal and an assist. Alex Iafallo and Neal Pionk both had two assists in the game. North Dakota was led by Tyson Jost with a goal and 2 assists. Brock Boesser, Trevor Olson and Christian Wolanin all had two points in the contest.
The two teams could meet again in Grand Forks, ND as they have both been seeded into the West Regional for the NCAA tournament.
Stars of the Game: Joey Anderson (UMD) Hunter Miska (UMD) Tyson Jost (UND)
NCHC Frozen Faceoff Third Place Game – Denver 3 Western Michigan 1
Minneapolis, MN- In a game missing a number of each teams top players either because of injury or simply being scratched, Denver outlasted Western Michigan 3-1 in the Third Place game. Denver’s Colin Staub scored twice and Liam Finlay scored the game-winning goal at 6:37 of the second period in the two-goal win. Mike McKee scored his second goal of the season in period two for the Broncos lone goal. Western Michigan outshot Denver 29 to 21 in the contest and Denver was 1 for 4 on the power play while the Broncos were 0 for 4. Ben Blacker (17-7-2) took the loss for WMU stopping 18 of 21 Denver shots on goal. Evan Cowley stepped in for Tanner Jaillet and stopped 28 of 29 shots to improve his record to 5-2-0. Denver moves on to the Midwest Regional in Cincinnati while Western Michigan was placed in the East Regional in Providence for the NCAA tournament.
Stars of the Game: Colin Staub (Denver) Evan Cowley (Denver) Evan Janssen (Denver)