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College men's hockey: Peterson brings Frozen Four experience to Bulldogs' roster

The NCAA Frozen Four at United Center in Chicago will be a first for the 27 members of the 2016-17 Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs with one exception -- Avery Peterson.

Avery Peterson of Minnesota Duluth nudges Sasha Larocque of Ohio State next to Ohio goalie Matt Tomkins during the Division I hockey championships Friday, March 24, 2017, at Scheels Arena in Fargo. Dave Wallis / Forum News Service
Minnesota Duluth junior forward Avery Peterson (11) battles in front of the Ohio State net during an NCAA West Regional semifinal last Friday at Scheels Arena in Fargo, N.D. Dave Wallis / Fargo Forum

The NCAA Frozen Four at United Center in Chicago will be a first for the 27 members of the 2016-17 Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs with one exception - Avery Peterson.

This will be the second trip for the junior center from Grand Rapids, who transferred to UMD a year ago from Nebraska-Omaha. Peterson helped the Mavericks reach their only Frozen Four as a freshman in 2015.

Peterson's Frozen Four experience with the Mavs was brief thanks to a 4-1 semifinal loss to eventual national champion Providence at TD Garden in Boston. He said that experience was pretty much a blur to him - and not because of the quick exit - which is why he's looking forward to this trip with the Bulldogs, who face Harvard at 5 p.m. April 6 in Chicago.

"It was great, pretty cool. I think I'll appreciate this one a lot more now that I'm a little older, a little bit wiser in my college career," Peterson said. "It all happened too fast when I was a freshman. All of a sudden it came and went."

Peterson scored 11 goals and 10 assists as a freshman, including a goal and an assist coming in an NCAA regional semifinal win over Harvard. Peterson didn't score in the regional final or Frozen Four semifinal.

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The 2014 Minnesota Mr. Hockey remained with the Mavs for just one more semester before transferring. Peterson became eligible to play for UMD in December, and has seven goals and seven assists in 23 games this year.

"It's a special thing, it's a special event," Peterson said of the Frozen Four. "It's big time. It's hard to get to. It really brings a team together long after the season is over. It really makes a team special when you win championships like this and get to a special event like this. It's pretty cool for the team."

For Scott Sandelin, this is his third trip to the Frozen Four as head coach of the Bulldogs. The first came in 2004 at Fleet Center in Boston. UMD lost 5-3 in the semifinals to eventual national champion Denver, after allowing four unanswered goals in the third period.

Sandelin's second trip in 2011 was much more successful when he guided the Bulldogs to a 4-3 semifinal win over Notre Dame and a 3-2 overtime win over Michigan in the national championship game at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul for the program's only NCAA title.

Sandelin said he learned a lot from the 2004 experience. He acknowledged he may have overcoached his team and been too serious. He realized the second time around just to stick to what worked en route to the Frozen Four.

"When we won in St. Paul, we didn't change a thing," Sandelin said. "Kids were going out to eat with their families. We had rules, but we didn't really change. It's the same things they do throughout the year. If you start changing routines right now, that can have an effect."

Peterson said the best advice he has for his teammates is to just enjoy the experience. Sandelin wants his players to do that as well, even media day next Wednesday.

The coach also wants his players to remain as hungry and as driven as they were to finally win that regional title after back-to-back heartbreaking losses the previous two seasons.

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"I talked to the guys. We took the next step, we got through the regional final. I don't want guys to just be satisfied with getting there," Sandelin said. "You are going there with a purpose to win two hockey games, and it starts with Harvard."

 

NCAA FROZEN FOUR

At United Center, Chicago

Thursday, April 6

Semifinals

Minnesota Duluth (27-6-7) vs. Harvard (28-5-2), 5 p.m. (ESPN2)

Denver (31-7-4) vs. Notre Dame (23-11-5), 8:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

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Saturday, April 8 Championship

Semifinal winners, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

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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