ST. PAUL, MN — The State of Hockey is more than a state of mind — it’s a way of life.
A year after falling short in the title bout, the Minnesota-Duluth booked a return engagement and sealed the deal as Karson Kuhlman opened the scoring 9:06 into the action before setting up Jared Thomas 9:33 later while Hunter Shepard made it stand with 19 saves in between the pipes as the Bulldogs edged the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, 2-1, in the final of the 2018 Frozen Four NCAA National Championship game at Xcel Energy Center.
“I think barely making it in was kind of a wake-up call for our group,” Kuhlman, who scored the first goal against the Fighting Irish on Saturday night, said. “And then from there, we just took it one game at a time. It’s four wins to win a national title, and that’s what we did.”
Blessed with a 2-0 lead after one period of play, Minnesota-Duluth kept its foot on the gas pedal in the second period out-shooting Notre Dame 18-8 in the middle frame. But as the game went deep into the doldrums of the third, the Bulldogs went into lock-down, defensively, limiting the Irish to just five shots in the final frame.
“There was never a panic, there was never any doubt in that room,” Thomas said. “If we needed to win the game 2-1, we were going to win the game 2-1. You saw it on third-period play where we really shut them down.”
Minnesota-Duluth fell to Denver, 3-2, in 2017 championship game but this time around the Bulldogs left no doubt by capturing its second NCAA National Championship in program history and first since 2011 when they defeated Michigan, 3-2, in overtime.
Notre Dame slashed the deficit in half with a power-play goal from Andrew Oglevie at 12:20 in the second period, the Irish’s eighth straight game it capitalized with the man-advantage, but it would be the last time it would solve Shepard.
“We needed to try and tie the game in the second, because once you get to the third period, they’re a shutdown team,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “They shut you down and don’t allow much through the neutral zone.”
Minnesota-Duluth finishes the season 25-16-3. Notre Dame concludes the 2017-18 campaign 28-10-2. It was quite the turnaround for the Bulldogs which lost seven seniors to graduation and another three more prospects to the NHL following last season’s failed title run.
Barely making the tournament despite the heavy graduation losses, the pressure was off Minnesota-Duluth which jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the semifinal and final before hanging on for the 2-1 win. The Bulldogs edged Ohio State in the semifinals on April 5.
“We felt our forward group was pretty good. We were replacing scoring, but we had some good depth,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. “The job that young group back there did, I think it really moved forward when Shep grabbed the net and played the way he did. It gave our whole team confidence.”
“They became that team of destiny that you’re always hoping to be at the end of the year,” Jackson said.
— Jack Kewitsch (@jackkewitsch) April 8, 2018
ROAD TO THE FROZEN FOUR
Friday, March 23
FINAL: No. 1 Notre Dame 4, No. 4 Michigan Tech 3 (OT) | BOX SCORE
FINAL: No. 4 Air Force 4, No. 1 St. Cloud State 1 | BOX SCORE
FINAL: No. 2 Providence 1, No. 3 Clarkson 0 | BOX SCORE
FINAL: No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth 3, No. 2 Minnesota State 2 (OT) | BOX SCORE
Saturday, March 24
FINAL: No. 4 Boston University 3, No. 1 Cornell 1 | BOX SCORE
FINAL: No. 1 Ohio State 4, No. 4 Princeton 2 | BOX SCORE
FINAL: No. 2 Michigan 3, No. 3 Northeastern 2 | BOX SCORE
FINAL: No. 2 Denver 5, No. 3 Penn State 1 | BOX SCORE
QUARTERFINALS (Regional Finals)
Saturday, March 24
FINAL: No. 1 Notre Dame 2, No. 2 Providence 1 | BOX SCORE
FINAL: No. 3 Minnesota Duluth 2, No. 4 Air Force 1 | BOX SCORE
Sunday, March 25
FINAL: No. 2 Michigan 6, No. 4 Boston University 3 | BOX SCORE
FINAL: No. 1 Ohio State 5, No. 2 Denver 1 | BOX SCORE
FROZEN FOUR (NATIONAL SEMIFINALS)
Thursday, April 5
FINAL: Minnesota-Duluth 2, Ohio State 1 | BOX SCORE
FINAL: Notre Dame 4, Michigan 3 | BOX SCORE
FROZEN FOUR (NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME)
Saturday, April 7
FINAL: Minnesota-Duluth 2, Notre Dame 1 | BOX SCORE
Main Image: The Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs celebrate after they won the championship game of the 2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Hockey Championships on April 7, 2018 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. The Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs defeated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2-1 to win the national championship. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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