Top seed North Dakota was not the ideal match-up for a Minnesota Duluth desperately needing one, maybe two wins this weekend in order complete their near-miraculous late-season run to make the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs managed just two goals total in four regular season losses to the Fighting Hawks, and looked to be headed down the same path again when Nick Schmaltz put North Dakota up 1-0 just 49 seconds into the game.
But a big wrist shot by junior Dominic Toninato less than a minute into the second period got the Bulldogs on the board, and sparked a run of three straight second period goals to give the Bulldogs a commanding 3-1 and allowed them to carry on to a 4-2 over the Fighting Hawks.
Minnesota Duluth will await the winner of the second semifinal between St. Cloud State and Denver later tonight. They'll meet in the NCHC championship game at 7:38 CST tomorrow evening.
North Dakota moves on to tomorrow's consolation game, having already locked a number one seed in next week's NCAA Tournament.
Notes and Thoughts:
-Real life forced me to miss the first period, but statistically, it was a very slow period, and even though North Dakota came out of the period with a 1-0 lead, their shot chart for the period looked like a lot of games they've lost in the past. Not a ton of shots, and most of them coming from the perimeter, with nobody getting to the net for tips and rebounds.
-It was Dom Toninato's early second period goal that really seemed to get the game started. After the two teams combined for 12 shots on goal total in the first period, each team took 14 shots on goal in the second period. Toninato's goal really seemed to give some life to the Bulldogs. They had been so frustrated in four games against UND this season. It was like once they broke the seal, the offense came in bunches.
-Austin Farley's goal to make it 3-1 was another big game-changer. North Dakota had killed off an extended 5-on-3 to keep the score at 2-1, and seemed to have some momentum. On the goal, the referees initially ruled on the ice that the puck went off the crossbar, and watching live, I agreed. All of UMD's players put their arms up to celebrate though, and officials stopped play to take a look. Sure enough, the puck hit the back of the net and bounced out. Good goal, and one that stood up as the game-winner.
-Credit the Bulldogs for not trying to sit on their lead in the third period. They kept attacking, even activating their defensemen a few times into the play to give them extra numbers to continue to put pressure on North Dakota. That really shortened the third period for them as they spent a lot of time in North Dakota's end. Other than one strong shift from the CBS line, UMD never really felt threatened, and Toninato was able to put the game away when he buried a shot late for an insurance goal.
-I wouldn't read too much into this game for North Dakota. They were a little sloppy protecting the front of their net tonight, but otherwise, they ran up against a team that was desperate and hungrier than they were.
Shots on goal: UND: 5-14-5-24 UMD; 7-14-5-26
Even strength shot attempts: UND: 4- 22-18-44-50.6% UMD: 13-18-12-43-49.4%
Prime scoring area attempts: UND: 2- 8- 4-14 UMD: 3-9-7-19
What do the numbers tell us?
The Bulldogs dominated the first period, despite trailing 1-0 on the scoreboard, and that advantage finally showed in the second period. Other than the second period, North Dakota didn't do a great job getting to the front of Kaskisuo and getting quality opportunities. UMD was out-attempted in the third as they tried to protect their lead, but not by that much, all things considered.
0:49 Nick Schmaltz from Drake Caggiula and Brock Boeser 1-0 North Dakota
0:28 Dom Toninato from Willie Raskob 1-1 tie
Toninato took a pass from Raskob at the left half boards. Toninato took two strides towards the net and fired a high wrist shot from a low angle that beat Johnson to the short side over his shoulder for the goal.
3:46 Alex Iafallo from Willie Raskob and Adam Johnson 2-1 Minnesota Duluth
A pretty passing play was set up by Johnson who brought the puck into the zone, who found Raskob, who fed a puck to Iafallo wide open in front of the after Iafallo beat a backchecker for an easy tap-in goal.
12:24 Austin Farley from Willie Corrin and Tony Cameranesi 3-1 Minnesota Duluth
Corrin took a rocket shot from the point that was tipped by Farley. The refs initially ruled that the shot hit the cross bar, but stopped play and went to video review, where they saw that the puck after bounced off the back pipe for a good goal.
15:00 Troy Stecher from Gage Ausmus and Brock Boeser 3-2 Minnesota Duluth
Stecher's slap shot from the top of the right circle beat Kaskisuo through traffic.
14:02 Dominic Toninato from Adam Johnson and Alex Iafallo 4-2 Minnesota Duluth
A puck bounces off the back boards and hopped over Johnson's stick as he tried to retrieve it. Two UND defenders followed him, leaving Toninato wide open in the slot and he buried a shot over the glove of Johnson for the insurance goal.