Frozen Four Championship:
Key Bank Center; Buffalo, NY
The French Connection
UMass vs UMD in the 2018-19 Title Game.
The Bulldogs and Minutemen during warmups
For all the excitement and anticipation, the championship game did not meet the standards of either of the two semi-final games.
The opening face-off
Duluth’s Parker Mackay scored on a PPG less than 4 minutes into the first period, and never looked back. UMass looked tentative at first, and that look never really left them. The Bulldogs clogged the lanes, blocked shots, took out bodies and basically caused havoc to the fast paced offense of Massachusetts.
UMD’s Mikey Anderson, on assists by Mackay and Justin Richards, put the puck in the net in period two. Then Jackson Cates scored in the third, and that was far more than Hunter Shepard would need in the Bulldog net.
Minnesota-Duluth goes back to back, winning their second national title in a row, and third overall
The Bulldogs would skate away with a 3-0 shutout win. Parker Mackay would win the tournament’s most valuable player award. No drama in this one.
The Frozen Four returned to Buffalo for the first time since 2003, when Minnesota beat New Hampshire for the title.
The Frozen Foursome has grown to a Frozen Six, but that has no ring to it, so I’m sticking with Frozen Foursome+. At any rate, we were excited to see the NCAA Championship tournament return to the hockey town in Western New York.
Alaska-Fairbanks jersey, American International, and the Pitch-Forks
The Duluth Bulldogs had their hands full with the Providence Friars on Thursday afternoon, in the first game. The game was scoreless after one period of play. Then Duluth’s Justin Richards put the Bulldogs in the lead in period two. But Josh Wilkins of the Friars quickly tied things up.
Opening puck drop; UMD-PC
Billy Exell of the Bulldogs would get the game winning goal at the halfway mark of the final period. Duluth would add two empty net goals, for a 4-1 win. It will be the third year in a row that Minnesota-Duluth will appear in the title game.
Opening Face-off Denver vs UMass
In the late semi-final game, Denver University played the University of Massachusetts. It was the first ever visit for UMass to the Frozen Four, and Denver’s 17th appearance.
This would prove to be an interesting matchup, with a lot of emotional swings. Denver took the lead on a power play goal by Colin Staub, at the end of a 5 minute major penalty on UMass. Denver then took their own 5 minute major, right after a minor penalty, giving UMass a 5 on 3 advantage. The Minutemen would go on to score three goals before the major penalty was over. The third goal was just a beautiful shot by John Leonard. UMass would go into the first intermission up 3-1.
After the rush of the first period, there was no scoring at all in period two. It wasn’t until the halfway mark of the third frame, when the Pioneers’ Cole Guttman put the puck past the UMass goalie Filip Lindberg. Suddenly the momentum was with DU. Guttman again came up big with the tying goal, with just under 4 minutes to play.
We were on to overtime. The Frozen Foursome+ compared notes, and placed their bets.
The play in OT was back & forth. Both teams had chances to walk away with a win. Momentum came and went. The pace picked up. Tensions rose. The Curator’s stomach was in knots.
Then at the 15:18 mark, Marc Del Gaizo, rifled a shot on net, and the puck flew past DU’s Filip Larsson. UMass had a 4-3 OT victory over Denver, and would move on to face Duluth in the title game. UMass has some sharp-shooters on that team. They are fast, and play some great hockey as a unit. UMD will be facing a tough challenge, but UMD has been here before.
Should be a phenomenal final. I can’t wait for puck drop.
Final score 4-3 UMass. An empty arena, but the UMass band is still up in the rafters playing.
The Frozen Trifecta was back at the United Center on Saturday for some college hockey. The University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs were facing the Denver University Pioneers for the Division 1 Championship. For the first time since the playoff selection went to the 16 team format, we had the #1 ranked team taking on the 2nd ranked team. Denver was the top seed, and they looked like it against Notre Dame in the semi-finals. Duluth would have their hands full.
Denver continued where it left off against the Irish, and really dominated play to start the first period. Duluth settled down around the 10 minute mark, and the game was scoreless after one.
Then things became interesting. Jarid Lukosevicius scored for the Pioneers at the 4:44 mark of period two. The announcer was still calling out who had assists on the goal, when Lukosevicius scored again, just 16 seconds later. Denver could smell blood, and Duluth was in chaos, when the official called a television timeout, and the Bulldogs were able to regroup.
Alex Iafallo, the hero from Thursday night, scored a power play goal for UMD, to make the score 2-1. Lukosevicius, out to prove that the third time really is a charmer, scored his third tally of the night. Lukosevicius’ hat trick happened over a span of 7 minutes, 39 seconds. The last time there was a hat trick in the championship game was in 1993, when the Denver head coach, Jim Montgomery, scored one for Maine against Lake Superior State.
The third period began with Duluth down 3-1, and they came out on fire. Much of the play was in the Denver zone, and the Bulldogs were flying to the puck. Riley Tufte finally put one behind Pionner goalie Tanner Jaillet. UMD suddenly had new life, and they stepped up the pressure even more. Duluth outshot Denver in the third period 17-3. But Jaillet, who had just won the Mike Richter Award as the Nation’s top college goal tender, held firm. Denver would keep that one goal lead, after a wild third period, to earn their 8th National Championship in hockey.
DU players celebrate on the ice
Jaillet would make 38 saves for Denver, and Hunter Miska would have 25 for Duluth.
Announced attendance was 19,783.
The Frozen Four moves to St Paul, MN for the 2018 championship.
The home of the St Cloud State University Huskies was the final D-1 rink in Minnesota for me to catch a game in. The facility is named after Coach Herb Brooks, who was instrumental in the St Cloud program moving up to Division One. The main rink is named after late university President Brendan J. McDonald, who was also a huge advocate for the D-1 move.
Completed in 1989, the Brooks Center is a no-frills kind of ice rink, seating 5159 for hockey; there is minimal seating at the ends and a low ceiling. It also has the worst PA system of any rink I’ve been in. But it’s a loud arena for the home town Huskies, and the student section: The Dog Pound, is as raucous as they get.
UMD and SCSU during pre-game warm ups
The Duluth Bulldogs were in St Cloud to try to keep their home ice in the first round of the playoffs. St Cloud would be trying to stay tied at the top of the NCHC with North Dakota.
The Bulldogs set the tone early, with a goal in the first 39 seconds. Both teams were flying, but it was UMD that would expand their early lead. UMD worked a delayed penalty to perfection, keeping the puck away from St Cloud until Brenden Kotyk buried the puck behind Husky goaltender Charlie Lindgren. Then UMD went on the power play, and Karson Kuhlman scored unassisted to give Duluth a very sudden 3-0 lead.
Duluth gave a clinic on how to take the early lead and then just hang on. St Cloud is a very fast team, and their puck movement is impressive. They peppered Duluth goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo with 14 SOG in the second, but only put one past him. Kaskisuo turned away another 21 SOG in the third, but did not allow a goal. UMD’s Kuhlman added his second goal of the game, an empty netter, for the 4-1 Duluth win.
Kaskisuo faced 50 shots total, and Lindgren faced 35. Attendance was 4861.
Second period entertainment: “Too Tall Ike” skates around on 4′ high stilts, dressed as one of the Hanson bros.