The North Star College Cup will be no more after this season, and Minnesota Duluth wants something to remember it by — namely a championship trophy.
The No. 2 Bulldogs took the first of two steps in achieving that goal Friday night by turning back Minnesota 3-2 in the tournament semifinals at St. Paul, Minnesota's, Xcel Energy Center. UMD (16-5-4 overall) will now face National Collegiate Hockey Conference rival St. Cloud State University for the North Star College Cup title at 7:05 p.m. CT Saturday.
No. 6 Minnesota capitalized on its first power-play opportunity of the night 5:05 into the opening period to grab a 1-0 lead, but the Bulldogs then struck for three straight goals. The first of those came with 1:09 to go before the first intermission when freshman left winger Riley Tufte intercepted a Gopher breakout pass and fired in a wrister from the inside edge of the right faceoff circle. With UMD on a 5-on-3 power play early in the second period, senior left winger Alex Iafallo put the Bulldogs ahead for good, taking cross-ice backdoor feed from freshman right winger Joey Anderson and whacking it past Minnesota netminder Eric Schierhorn. Junior center Avery Peterson gave UMD some insurance at 8:34 of the third when he took a chip pass from Tufte near center ice, broke in all alone and deposited his fourth goal in eight games as a Bulldog. With Schierhorn pulled and Minnesota a man up, Brent Gates cut the deficit to 3-2 with 38.9 seconds remaining in regulation, but freshman goaltender Hunter Miska and the Bulldogs shut the door after that to seal their program-best seventh straight victory over the longtime intrastate rivals.
Miska, who improved to 15-4-2 on the year, made 37 saves (one shy of his career high), including 21 in the third period when UMD was outshot 22-2. Schierhorn finished with 26 stops for Minnesota (14-7-2).
"Riley's goal was big because it gave us some momentum going into the second period," said UMD head coach Scott Sandelin. "It seemed we gave them every opportunity to get back in the game, but our guys held down the fort. It's a big win for our team."
The Bulldogs went 3-1 against St. Cloud State during the regular season and took down the Huskies 4-3 in overtime in the most recent meeting between the two clubs (Jan. 14 in Duluth). UMD will be seeking to capture first regular-season tournament title since 2001-02 on Saturday night.
"The experience at the 'X' is awesome," said Tufte, who has racked up eight points (five goals and three assists) in the last seven games. "And, I'm looking forward to playing here again [Saturday]."