Minn.-Duluth silences Irish
Bulldogs advance to NCAA title game
ST. PAUL — The game wasn’t even 20 seconds old and Minnesota-Duluth was already down, 1-0, to Notre Dame.
It’s been that way for the Bulldogs all season long, so why change in the semifinals of the Frozen Four?
J.T. Brown had a goal and an assist and Duluth hung on through a tense third period to beat Notre Dame, 4-3, yesterday and advance to its second national title game in school history.
“Sometimes they’re better when their backs are against the wall,’’ coach Scott Sandelin said. “They’ve been that way all year long.’’
Mike Connolly, Jack Connolly, and Kyle Schmidt also scored and the Bulldogs (25-10-6) survived being outshot, 15-2, in the third period to get past Notre Dame (25-14-5).
Ken Reiter overcame a shaky start to make 31 saves.
Duluth will face Michigan, which defeated North Dakota, 2-0, last night, in the championship game tomorrow night.
Jeff Costello, T.J. Tynan, and Calle Ridderwall scored for the Fighting Irish, with Ridderwall connecting shorthanded early in the third period to cut Duluth’s lead to 4-3.
But the Irish couldn’t come up with the tying goal in a furious final two minutes and went 0 for 5 on the power play.
“That game was dictated by one thing,’’ Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said. “Special teams.’’
Duluth went 3 for 6 on the power play and held the Irish without a shot on goal for their final three power plays of the night.
Justin Faulk and Justin Fontaine each had three assists for slick-passing Duluth, which lost a four-overtime thriller to Bowling Green in the 1984 final.
Now the Bulldogs will look to join the school’s football team, which won its second Division 2 title in three years in the fall, as national champions.
Perhaps the gravity of the occasion was a little too much for the two goalies in the early going.
The game got off to a blistering start, with both goaltenders giving up fairly soft goals. Notre Dame was on the board in less than 20 seconds when Costello easily beat Reiter on the short side.
The Bulldogs got back in the game with superior puck movement on the power play, with Brown sweeping a pass from Faulk past Mike Johnson (17 saves).
Tynan scored when the puck took a wicked bounce off the boards behind Reiter, but Duluth scored the final two goals of the period — one by Schmidt and another by Mike Connolly on the power play — to take a 3-2 lead into the first break.
The Bulldogs held Notre Dame to just four shots in the second period, including none on two power plays to keep the heat off their streaky goalie.
Ridderwall’s shorthanded goal just over two minutes into the final period gave Notre Dame life, and the Irish peppered Reiter for the rest of the game, but only at even strength. They had another power play with under nine minutes to play, but once again failed to register a shot.