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Callan Sheridan | | April 13, 2019

Frozen Four 2019: Minnesota Duluth, UMass will vie for a national title. Let's recap Thursday's hockey action.

UMass advances to Frozen Four championship game over Denver

After two intense matchups, the Frozen Four will continue with defending champion Minnesota Duluth taking on newcomer Massachusetts in the national title game. Tune in to ESPN2 on Saturday, April 13 at 8 p.m EST.

FROZEN FOUR 2019: Schedule, championship info

For a rundown of all the semifinal action, keep reading.

Minnesota Duluth vs. Providence.

Here comes Minnesota Duluth, the three-peat title contender vying for a repeat championship. The Bulldogs dug out a 4-1 semifinal win over the Providence Friars on Thursday at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo, N.Y. to advance to the Frozen Four championship game. 

DEFENDING CHAMPS: A look at Minnesota Duluth's Frozen Four history

In a slow start to the Frozen Four festivities, fans saw a first period where two potential goals were waived off. One for goaltender interference and the other because the play had already ended before the puck crossed the goal line. 

The Bulldogs got the puck across that line first, well into the second period on a Justin Richards laser from the right face-off circle. Providence responded not long after, capitalizing on the man-advantage as Josh Wilkins scored his 20th goal of the season. 

That would be the Friars’ only score of the contest though, despite a flurry of shot attempts throughout the third. UMD’s Billy Exell grabbed the go-ahead goal, crashing the net to put in a shot rebound. From there, Providence’s attempts to gain momentum by pulling its goalie for the extra attacker backfired, as UMD added two more scores on the empty net. 

UMass vs. Denver 

In what ended up being the marquee event, Massachusetts continued its impressive season with a 4-3 sudden-death OT win over Denver.

The second game of the night got off to a wild start, calmed down for about a period and a half, and then later — we had a memorable ending. Denver jumped out fast and grabbed the first score on a 5-on-4 power play after UMass’ Niko Hildenbrand was benched for contact to the head and a game misconduct. Advantage, Pioneers. Not for long, though. UMass quickly found itself on the power play thanks to consecutive minor penalties called on Denver. In under 30 seconds the Minutemen tallied power play goals from Bobby Trivigno and Mitchell Chaffee, both while on the 5-on-3. Then, eighteen seconds later and still on a scoring high, John Leonard knocked in another with a snapshot goal on the 5-on-4. 

MEET THE TEAMS: You have to meet these Frozen Four players

The second frame, in comparison, was a tame affair. Shots on goal were 9-7 in favor of Denver, and the Pioneers also came away with 10 of the face-off wins to UMass’s five. Despite that, Denver wasn’t able to find the back of the net and narrow the score gap. A five minute major to UMass forward Mitchell Chaffee for head contact and a game misconduct ended the frame and gave Denver a minute of the man-advantage to start the third. 

The third period began with Massachusetts leading, 3-1. The Minutemen had a strong grasp on puck control, and certainly had the game’s end within sights. Enter, Denver —  a team with its season on the line. The Pioneers saw two power play opportunities in a row, but it wasn’t until UMass was back at full strength that Cole Guttman notched Denver’s first goal in nearly 40 minutes on shot that slid over Lindberg’s right shoulder. Less than four minutes later — and with less than four minutes in the game — it was Guttman again with a sneaky shot from the crease through Lindberg’s knees. Tied game. With a renewed fire, Denver controlled the puck for the final minutes, outshooting UMass 15-4 and nearly scoring on a wraparound with seconds remaining. Time expired though, and the game headed to overtime. 

FOLLOW ALONG: Schedule, scores, live blog for the tournament

The overtime period was some of the most well-matched hockey of the game, as the Minutemen and Pioneers traded possessions and gasp-worthy shots on net. In the end, though, it was Marc Del Gaizo with a slapshot that flew right by Larsson’s glove side. 

Massachusetts advances to its first-ever title game and will face defending champion Minnesota Duluth in the championship game on Saturday at 8 p.m EST.

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