’DOGS XCEL: UMD beats Notre Dame to win second national title at Xcel Energy Center
ST. PAUL — For Minnesota Duluth, X marks the spot.
The Bulldogs won their second national championship on Saturday night on the same ice they won their first title back in 2011, beating Notre Dame 2-1 in the final of the 2018 NCAA Frozen Four at Xcel Energy Center before a raucous pro-UMD crowd of 18,303.
Just 365 days ago, UMD lost in the national championship game, 3-2 to Denver, at United Center in Chicago. As painful as that day was for players such as Karson Kuhlman and Jared Thomas, both said they’d gladly re-live it.
“It didn’t kill us, it made us stronger,” said UMD senior wing, captain and Esko native Kuhlman, who was named the Frozen Four’s Most Outstanding Player. “This is the best day of my life. This is something that I’ve dreamt about since I was a little kid. To do it here in front of basically a home crowd, I couldn’t be more proud of our guys.”
The Bulldogs — who have now played in 11 straight one-goal NCAA tournament games, winning eight — used the same script they used to win the West Regional final against Air Force in Sioux Falls, S.D., and Thursday’s Frozen Four semifinal against Ohio State at Xcel. UMD jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead against the Fighting Irish and then stymied their opponent in the second and third periods.
UMD even kept Notre Dame from getting a shot on goal in the final 1:28 when it had pulled its goalie, just as it had done against the Buckeyes and Falcons.
Despite how well that script had worked, Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said he was aching for that third goal to put the Irish away.
Turns out once again they didn’t need it. Like the Falcons and Buckeyes, one goal is all the Irish could get past UMD sophomore goaltender Hunter Shepard.
“This group, maybe because we were in those positions before, there was no panic,” Sandelin said. “I thought we played a real smart third period. We didn’t take too many chances. We defended well. During the game when we needed a couple big saves, Shep was there like he’s been all year.
“You do it as a team and I couldn’t be more proud of this team.”
Notre Dame cashed in on one of its two power plays in the second period — while the Bulldogs went 0-for-3 — to cut the margin down to one going into the third.
Junior center Andrew Oglevie scored on the second Irish power play of the period, with a stretch pass to an open senior center Jake Evans — who was forgotten by UMD at the blue line — eventually leading to an open Oglevie at the back door for the score.
The Bulldogs took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission for the third game in a row, this time forcing turnovers to set up a pair of crowd-roaring shots by two senior Nortlanders.
Kuhlman froze the national goaltender of the year, Notre Dame sophomore Cale Morris, with a snipe to the top-right corner nine minutes in to open the scoring. Kuhlman forced an Irish turnover in the neutral zone and sophomore center Jade Miller then poke-checked the puck back to his captain to set up the attack.
With less than two minutes to play in the first period, Kuhlman and Thomas used a strong forecheck to force the Irish to turn the puck over again along the back wall in their own zone. That led to Thomas from the end line slipping the puck between the near post and arm of the Mike Richter Award winner.
“It’s unbelievable, words can’t describe how we all feel right now,” said Thomas, who with the Hermantown Hawks lost three straight Class A state championship games at Xcel. “Everything we’ve gone through, the whole year, everything I’ve gone through in my career here, the ups and downs, this makes it all worth it. I would do this all over again in a heartbeat. This is crazy. Winning it here in this rink with these fans, it’s storybook. It really is.”
The Bulldogs did experience a setback in the early going of their second NCAA championship game appearance in two years. Freshman fourth-line winger Kobe Roth suffered a fractured tibia after going hard into the boards with Notre Dame senior defenseman Justin Wade. Roth was helped back to the locker room and didn’t return until after the final buzzer wearing a boot on his leg.
His teammates helped him get dressed, including his jersey, and then he was pushed onto the ice on a chair after the game to celebrate the title.
The injury didn’t dampen his mood one bit.
“It doesn’t even feel real. It’s unbelievable that we did this,” Roth said. “Everyone doubted us this year but us. We knew what we were capable of and it’s just awesome to get it done.”Minn. Duluth 2-0-0—2Notre Dame 0-1-0—1
First period — 1. UMD, Karson Kuhlman 13 (Jade Miller), 9:06; 2. UMD, Jared Thomas 11 (Kuhlman), 18:39. Penalties — Mike O’Leary, ND (hooking), 19:42.
Second period — 3. ND, Andrew Oglevie 15 (Cam Morrison, Jake Evans), 7:40. Penalties — Jordan Gross, ND (tripping), 2:19; Louie Roehl, UMD (interference), 4:35; Scott Perunovich, UMD (interference), 7:08; Colin Theisen, ND (kneeing), 10:02.
Third period — No scoring. Penalties — None.
Shots on goal — UMD 10-18-7—35; ND 7-9-5—20. Goalies — Hunter Shepard, UMD (20 shots-19 saves); Cale Morris, ND (35-33). Power plays — UMD 0-of-3; ND 1-of-2. Referees — Peter Feola, Robert St. Lawrence. Linesmen — Jim Briggs, Ryan Knapp. Att. — 18,303.