SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA — A year after falling short in the national title game, Minnesota Duluth returned to the Frozen Four and this time came out on top in their home state to win the 2018 national championship.
The Bulldogs scored the first two goals of the game in the first period and kept Notre Dame scoreless for the final 30:20 to clinch their second national title in program history. Both of their championships were claimed in nearby St. Paul, Minnesota (2011, 2018).
Karson Kuhlman opened up the game's scoring at the 9:06 mark in the opening frame and was followed by teammate Jared Thomas' goal at 18:39 to give UMD an early two-goal advantage at the first intermission. Notre Dame's Andrew Oglevie cut into the lead in the second period with a goal in the eighth minute, but Bulldogs goalie Hunter Shepard (19 saves) stonewalled the Irish for the rest of the game.
Minnesota Duluth was the last team to get an at-large bid into the 2018 NCAA tournament, and now the Bulldogs are the last ones standing at the Frozen Four.
From NCAA.com: Meet the Frozen Four Coaches
The NCAA Frozen Four makes its third visit to Xcel Energy Center this week, with Thursday's semifinals between Minnesota Duluth and Ohio State, and Notre Dame and Michigan. We've already heard from the four head coaches heading to St. Paul, and here are some highlights of what they had to say:
Notre Dame's Jeff Jackson
On the Big Ten having three Frozen Four teams: "It's not surprising at all that there are three Big Ten teams, and there could have been four potentially. The conference this year is outstanding. Every team in the conference got better, and it made it real challenging for us as the season progressed."
On Notre Dame's move to the Big Ten: "Just from a geographical perspective, it made a lot of sense for us to be more in the Midwest. And I think that's helped us as far as our fan base and our team as far as travel. Our guys are playing in big venues and playing against big-time programs every night. It's created more of a buzz in our building and has been nothing but a positive so far."
MORE: Big Ten drawing attention heading into 2018 Frozen Four
Michigan's Mel Pearson
On his team: "Out of the four teams, we probably were the least likely to get there after being picked to finish sixth in the Big Ten. Obviously, we're the underdog in the tournament. We're just happy to be there, and it's bonus hockey for us."
On returning to Minnesota (Pearson played for Willard Ikola at Edina East in the 1970s): "I grew up there. My dad played in the old World Hockey Association with the Fighting Saints. I played on that site in the high school state tournament, so I always enjoy coming back to Minnesota. I have some deep roots there."
MORE: Minnesota Duluth, Notre Dame bring Frozen Four experience to St. Paul
Ohio State's Steve Rohlik
On the last meeting against Duluth, a 3-2 overtime win for the Bulldogs in last year's first round: "We knew we were going against one of the best teams in the country at the time."
On his days as an assistant at Duluth and facing his former boss, Scott Sandelin: "I had some unbelievable years at Duluth. Sandy gave me a chance to work with him. The hockey world is a small world no matter where you turn."
Minnesota Duluth's Scott Sandelin
On winning it all in 2011 at Xcel: "Any time you're playing in the Frozen Four, it's certainly a very exciting time for your players, program and community. It's great that it's in St. Paul. It's close to home, and obviously that's pretty special."
On getting into the tournament as the last at-large team: "The way it happened really gave our guys a sense of how hard it is and kind of a second life. They really seized that opportunity."
On being the only non-Big Ten team: "It's exciting to represent our league [the NCHC] and be back there. The way college hockey is, there are so many good teams."