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UMD men's hockey: Fanti records third-straight shutout in Bulldogs' 3-0 NCAA tournament win

Kobe Roth scored two goals against Michigan Tech for the Bulldogs to advance to Saturday's regional final.

Minnesota Duluth plays Michigan Tech in regional semifinal game in Loveland
Minnesota Duluth forward Kyler Kleven (22) celebrates after scoring a third-period goal against Michigan Tech goaltender Blake Pietila (31) during the NCAA regional semifinal game on Thursday, March 24, 2022, at Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, Colorado.
Clint Austin /Duluth News Tribune

LOVELAND, Colo. — Minnesota Duluth junior goaltender Ryan Fanti recorded his third consecutive postseason shutout and the Bulldogs advanced to their seventh-straight NCAA men's hockey regional final with a 3-0 victory over Michigan Tech on Thursday at Budweiser Events Center.

The Bulldogs, who are now 11-0 all-time in NCAA regional semifinals, will play Denver on Saturday in the regional final at 3 p.m. in Loveland. The host Pioneers beat UMass-Lowell 3-2 on Thursday night to set up a rematch of last Friday's NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinal at Amsoil Arena that UMD won 2-0.

Fanti made 28 saves on Thursday against Tech to extend his shutout streak to 207 minutes, 17 seconds. He posted back-to-back shutouts a week ago at the Frozen Faceoff at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul — making 30 saves in the win over Denver — and hasn’t given up a goal since St. Cloud State’s Nick Perbix beat him 3:41 into the third period of Game 2 of an NCHC quarterfinal series on March 12.

Fanti said throughout the season there are up and downs for a goaltender. Sometimes you’re seeing the puck well — like when he posted three consecutive shutouts in November against Western Michigan and Colorado College — and other times you’re not.

Now is one of those times where he admits he is seeing the puck well.

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“Fortunate enough for myself and for us that one of those times is right now where I'm seeing it often,” said Fanti, who has seven shutouts this season. “That's a testament to our defensemen and stuff, too. There's a couple chances here and there and I have to make a save or two, but for the most part, there's lots of outside shots. I was seeing shots from the point. They were going a good job clearing it in front of me.”

Minnesota Duluth plays Michigan Tech in regional semifinal game in Loveland
Minnesota Duluth forward Kobe Roth (10) celebrates after scoring an empty net goal against Michigan Tech in the third period of the NCAA regional semifinal game on Thursday, March 24, 2022, at Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, Colorado.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

UMD senior wing Kobe Roth scored two goals — the second being an empty-netter in the final seconds — and freshman fourth-line wing Kyler Kleven got his second of the season Thursday.

Kleven — unassisted — gave the Bulldogs a 2-0 advantage with 13:51 to play in regulation after an own-zone turnover in the slot by Huskies senior defenseman and Hermantown native Eric Gotz — the older brother of UMD sophomore defenseman Darian Gotz. It was a free puck for Kleven, who sniped it to the back of the net.

“That was a huge, huge goal by Kleven,” Roth said, who added that line of Kleven, freshman center Carter Loney and junior wing Luke Loheit were solid all night. “It’s huge when you have all four lines running. I’m really proud of them.”

Roth had the first snipe of the day, giving the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead with just over five minutes to play in the first — unassisted — by using a screen to finally get a puck by Huskies junior goalie Blake Pietila.

UMD couldn’t get a puck by Pietila again until the third. Pietila made 22 saves as UMD was outshot 28-25 in Thursday’s game, including 12-6 in the third as Tech pulled Pietila for the final four minutes of the game.

“I thought we came out well and did what we wanted to do as far as the start, get a lead,” Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said. “But I think we forgot to play the next two periods. It wasn't our best, but Ryan was outstanding for us. Kobe obviously continues to do what he does. It's a good lesson. It's a three-period game or more, and we've got to play hard.”

The Huskies lost leading scorer and top-10 Hobey Baker Memorial Award finalist Brian Halonen just 3:17 into Thursday’s semifinal after he was ejected for boarding. The Bulldogs were also called for slashing at the same time, so Tech only had to kill off a three-minute Bulldogs major power play after two-minutes of 4-on-4.

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The Huskies killed the major penalty — giving up four shots on goal to UMD — to keep the game scoreless until Roth struck.

Minnesota Duluth plays Michigan Tech in regional semifinal game in Loveland
Minnesota Duluth goaltenders celebrate a third-period goal against Michigan Tech the NCAA regional semifinal game on Thursday, March 24, 2022, at Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, Colorado.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Going into Thursday’s game, Tech coach Joe Shawhan said his biggest concern was the experience factor. His team had just two players who had ever played in the NCAA tournament. The Bulldogs had five who are two-time national champions.

Shawhan said the Bulldogs’ experience showed on Thursday, especially in the opening 20 minutes.

“If I’m disappointed, that’s what it was, because that’s what we addressed. That’s their advantage,” Shawhan said. “They took advantage of that and we had to step up a little better in the first. You saw the last two periods. We’re a good hockey team. We can play, we can do a lot of things. If we had played them a couple times during the year, maybe our guys wouldn’t have been so tight.”

Michigan Tech 0-0-0—0

Minnesota Duluth 1-0-2—3

First period

1. UMD, Kobe Roth, 14:54

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Second period

No scoring.

Third period

2. UMD, Kyler Kleven, 6:09

3. UMD, Roth, 19:53 (en)

Saves — Blake Pietila, MTU, 22; Ryan Fanti, UMD, 28.

Power plays — MTU 0-3; UMD 0-1. Penalties — MTU 2-15; UMD 4-8.

Minnesota Duluth plays Michigan Tech in regional semifinal game in Loveland
Minnesota Duluth goaltender Ryan Fanti (39) deflects a shot on goal against Michigan Tech forward Justin Misiak (17) during the NCAA regional semifinal game on Thursday, March 24, 2022, at Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, Colorado.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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