UMD beats Notre Dame, advances to title game

Posted April 07, 2011, at 8:40 p.m.
Last modified April 07, 2011, at 11:17 p.m.

ST. PAUL, Minn. — J.T. Brown had a goal and an assist to help Minnesota-Duluth beat Notre Dame 4-3 in the Frozen Four on Thursday, propelling the Bulldogs to their second national title game in school history.

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.

UMD will face Michigan in the championship game Saturday night. Michigan shut out North Dakota 2-0 in the late game. Ben Winnett scored a first-period goal off an assist from Luke Glendening for Michigan, which added an empty-net goal by Scooter Vaughan with less than a minute left in the game.

Jeff Costello, T.J. Tynan and Calle Ridderwall scored for the Fighting Irish, with Ridderwall connecting short-handed early in the third period to cut it to one. But the Irish couldn’t come up with the tying goal in a furious final 2 minutes and went 0 for 5 on the power play.

Justin Faulk and Justin Fontaine each had three assists for slick-passing UMD, which lost a four-overtime thriller to Bowling Green in the 1984 final.

The two semifinals were a stark contrast in tradition, with the Irish and Bulldogs both in search of their first national titles while Michigan and North Dakota have combined for 16. Neither Notre Dame nor UMD won conference championships or tournaments, but got into the 16-team field with at-large bids.

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, who made 17 saves.

Tynan scored when the puck took a wicked bounce off the boards behind Reiter, but UMD 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.

Reiter appeared to settle down a bit as the game went on, stopping Tynan on a breakaway at the end of the first period and then benefiting from smothering defense in the second.

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.

The bigger, younger Irish were having difficulty keeping the smaller, quicker Bulldogs in front of them, and they took six penalties while chasing them around the ice. Jack Connolly scored UMD’s third power-play goal of the game on a beautiful cross-ice feed from Brown to make it 4-2.

Ridderwall’s short-handed goal just over 2 minutes into the final period gave Notre Dame new life, and the Irish peppered Reiter for the rest of the game, but only at even strength. They had another power play with under 9 minutes to play, but once again failed to register a shot.

They used six skaters for the final minute, but Reiter came up with just enough to keep the puck out of the net.

In the second game, North Dakota freshman forward Brock Nelson left the NCAA semifinal game against Michigan on a stretcher after crashing into the boards with his back, and he was taken to a hospital as a precaution.

Nelson was hurt midway through the first period Thursday night after making a pass and getting hit cleanly but hard from the side by Wolverines captain Luke Glendening. Nelson lost his balance at full speed and tumbled toward the boards, slamming against them with his back. Nelson sustained a lower-body injury, a school spokesman said.

He was flat on the ice in pain for a few minutes before climbing to all fours, with movement in all of his extremities, but he was wobbly and not ready to rise. Medical staff members then helped immobilize him and carry him off, as the crowd at Xcel Energy Center gave Nelson a standing ovation.

From Warroad, Minn., he has eight goals and 13 assists this season for the Fighting Sioux.

 

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