St. Paul, MN – When I’m wrong I’ll be the first to admit it. After several years of accurate predictions in the Frozen Four I fell flat on my face after Thursday’s semi-final games. I certainly underestimated (my alma mater) UMD in game one vs Ohio State. I was convinced the number of upperclassmen, experience and overall team strength would carry the Buckeyes to the championship game. The inexperienced Bulldogs leveraged a tremendous first period of hockey to a 2-1 win over the Buckeyes. In the process, they advance to the “Big Show” on Saturday vs Notre Dame, another team I predicted against.
With Michigan the stronger offensive team and the hottest team entering the Frozen Four, I felt they’d carry that momentum into the title game. However, if you read my Frozen Four preview, I felt it necessary for the Wolverines Hayden Lavigne to support Michigan’s offense with a solid game. The opposite occurred with Lavigne yielding two stoppable shots in my opinion to give the Irish the offense they needed to prevail in the semi-final game. It was also important for Notre Dame’s top-flight players Gross, Evans, Oglevie and Morris to have an impact for them to win. They did with the three all having a multi-point game. Morris, on the other hand, ended up the evening with a .890 SV% and was rescued by his ‘mates after yielding two early goals.
University of Minnesota-Duluth 2 Ohio State University 1
The Bulldogs roared out to a 2-0 lead in the first three minutes of the contest and then held on for a trip to their second consecutive title game on Saturday. Defenseman, Louie Roehl, not known for his offense scored 1:53 into the contest for an early Bulldog lead. This was the fastest opening goal in a national tournament semi-final game since a goal by Quinnipiac 1:49 into the first period vs St. Cloud State in 2011. With UMD buzzing and Ohio State looking flat-footed and perplexed by the race horse start by the Bulldogs, they yielded another goal at 3:04 off a lone break by Jarod Thomas, his 10th of the season. Thomas was sprung loose and slipped the puck off a backhand under OSU’s Sean Romeo for a 2-0 Bulldog lead. In a totally dominant period, UMD outshot the Buckeyes 17-4. Still reeling from the first period, the Buckeyes still had little to generate from an offensive standpoint in the second period as the Bulldogs protected their two-goal lead despite being outshot 8-6. It wasn’t until 9:27 of the third period that OSU finally dented the scoreboard with a power play goal by Tanner Laczynski, his 17th goal of the season. But, it was too little too late as the Bulldogs tightened things up and outlasted the Buckeyes for a 2-1 win.
Forward Bake Young commented ” We were confident from the start when it was 0-0. We knew we had a chance against them and we knew we had to start off hot and that’s exactly what we did. It kind of took a little stress off us to start. We didn’t have to play so tense right away and I think it allowed us to play our game more throughout the day.”
On the win, first-year defenseman Scott Perunovich remarked “Obviously, a lot of people doubted us, you know, but it just shows, our coaching staff, how good they are and their leadership is the best I’ve ever had and they can really get the boys going. It took everyone to come together. I think the freshmen did a good job stepping up throughout the year and the whole team came together. You know, we’re playing Bulldog Hockey right now and can beat anyone.”
“It was a huge start for us. I mean that’s been our key all along; when we’ve had success, we’ve had fast starts. It was a great play by two freshmen defensemen there on the goal. Louie is not quite the biggest goal scorer — no goals in high school, right? Couple this year, though” said forward Jarod Thomas.
Said Coach Sandelin “We obviously had a great start to the game, getting a lead, but thought our first two periods were strong, and a little slow in the third. They got the power play, but our guys held strong and kind of seems to be the MO with our team right now. Our program in this tournament, we’ve had a lot of one-goal games. But real excited for our guys, how they’ve grown through the year and to be able to play in the final game of the year is pretty special. So, we’re looking forward to it.”
University of Notre Dame 4 University of Michigan 3
In the nightcap of the semi-finals, two Big Ten teams battled for the right to national championship. Despite falling behind early by two goals, Notre Dame rallied for two goals in period two to tie the game and scored last in period three with just 5.2 seconds remaining to dispose of league rival Michigan by a 4-3 score. It was an early uphill battle for the Irish as Tony Calderone’s 25th marker of the season gave the young Wolverine bunch a 1-0 lead in a period where they essentially traded shots on goal. Senior Dexter Dancs added another goal for Michigan a mere 17 seconds into period two and it appeared it was going to be a long night for Jeff Jackson’s crew. However, Notre Dame recovered quickly and responded with goals by two of its marquee players, Jake Evans and Andrew Oglevie to knot the game at 2-2. First it was Oglevie and his 14th goal of the season, assisted by Evans and Jordan Gross at 2:41. Next, Evans added his 12th of the year, assisted by Gross at 6:20 and the comeback was complete as the Irish outshot the Wolverines 15-7 in the second frame. Notre Dame’s Cal Burke then matched Oglevies 14th goal with a tally just 1:35 into period three to complete a three-goal rally to take a 3-2 lead. But, Michigan’s Michael Pastujov chipped one past Morris in traffic at 14:38 tying the game once again and leading one to believe it was going to be a late night into overtime. However, Jake Evans gave the crowd an early pass with his second goal of the game and 13th of the season with 5.2 seconds remaining to send Notre Dame to the Saturday title game.
Andrew Oglevie remarked “We’ve had some unlucky bounces go on for us throughout the year. I think we know how to handle our adversity this time of year. We’ve got a mature group. Our message was just stay on the bench and go out there and take the game to them. I think we did a good job of that during the second period.”
Game hero Jake Evans added “It’s definitely fun playing in these environments, playing in a great rink, a great crowd. These tight games are, obviously, you want to just keep piling up goals, but they’re not going to happen this time of year. And it’s a lot of fun because our team has so much confidence right now. And when we’re down one, down two, they get a late goal, we’re a calm team, and we’re a unit. And no one’s getting angry or down, everyone’s staying up. And it’s been a lot of fun.” Concerning the game-winning goal he remarked “I don’t really remember how it actually started, but I know Jenkins was in a battle with another forward, I think, and he did a really good job of winning that battle and getting it to squirt out for me.And then I just saw Cam flying on the wing, and he’s got such great speed and he’s a strong guy. And I thought he’d have a chance at getting a shot or just going hard to the net. And I knew there was a little bit of time left, so I thought I’d give it one last rush, and Cam just did a really good job of putting it out there for me.”
In facing Duluth, Evans said “We haven’t seen much of them. But I remember them last year. They’re just a hard-working team that’s got a lot of depth and obviously well-coached. And I think just this year, knowing what they’ve done so far and being one of the last teams in and just being so resilient and so hard to play against.I know tonight they got off to a really good start they looked like a really fast team. It’s going to be a really good challenge for us.”