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Fast Start Propels Minnesota Duluth to National Title Game

Matt Dewkett

Minnesota Duluth got off to a blazing fast start, scoring twice in the first 3:04 of the game, and that was all the offense they needed as they hung on for a 2-1 victory over Ohio State in the first Frozen Four semifinal.

The Bulldogs, as they have most of the year, started five freshmen defensemen for tonight’s game, and while team-leading scorer Scott Perunovich and NHL draft picks Dylan Samberg and Mikey Anderson draw most of the attention, it was the two less heralded that teamed up for the first goal. Following a mad scramble in front of the Ohio State net, Matt Anderson gathered the puck at the top of the point. With the OSU defense frozen, Anderson fed a cross-ice pass to the right circle to Louie Roehl, who snuck in from his point and blasted the puck into an open net.

The Bulldogs added to their lead 1:11 later. Off a faceoff in the UMD zone, Jared Thomas forced a turnover at the blue line then broke the zone. Karson Kuhlman picked up the loose puck and fed it up to Thomas for a breakaway chance. Thomas deked to his backhand and put the puck between the legs of Ohio State goalie Sean Romeo for the goal.

Ohio State improved as the game progressed, but the early deficit was too much to overcome. The Buckeyes added a goal late, when Tanner Laczynski’s tipped shot put Ohio State on the board at 9;27 of the third period on the power play.

But they could come no closer. The Buckeyes late push produced a bit of a territorial advantage, but they struggled to get quality opportunities through to Minnesota Duluth’s Hunter Shepard.

With the win, Minnesota Duluth advances to Saturday’s national championship game where they will meet the winner of the second semifinal between Notre Dame and Michigan.

Notes and Thoughts:

-Minnesota Duluth blitzed Ohio State early. The Bulldogs surprised Ohio State a little bit by bringing a two-man forecheck early in the game and that produced some early turnovers. When Minnesota Duluth is skating hard like that, they’re really tough. Lots of teams can be fast when they have the puck. But Minnesota Duluth’s ability to use their speed and strength when the other team has the puck by taking away time and space and forcing turnovers makes them as good as any team in the country.

- I wrote before the game that Minnesota Duluth had to get pucks into the tough areas and they were outstanding with that in the first period. The Bulldogs generated 14 shots in the prime scoring area in that first period, a number that matched their total for the next two periods. It was that kind of havoc that helped produce their first goal.

-They weren’t able to maintain that kind of effort for a full 60 minutes, but they were strong enough defensively to make it stand up. I thought they got great games from their two big defensemen Dylan Samberg and Nick Wolff. Both were rock solid 1-on-1 all game and helped keep Ohio State to one-and-done on their chances all night. Louie Roehl stepped up with some big minutes late as a defensive stopper too.

-Minnesota Duluth had a big advantage in terms of depth tonight too. I thought UMD’s fourth line generated a lot of chances tonight and kept the puck on the right side of the ice whenever they were out there. Meanwhile, Ohio State wasn’t able to generate anything outside of their top line all night. Climbing back from a 2-0 hole is tough enough, but the inability to threaten on more than one of every three shifts makes it a much tougher hill to climb. The absence of Matthew Weis loomed pretty large tonight.

-It did almost go sideways for the Bulldogs in the third period. Riley Tufte took a careless penalty in the neutral zone, which the Bulldogs were able to survive, but they took a penalty right after that. The toughest penalty to kill is one right after killing another penalty, and Ohio State was able to capitalize.

Fancy Stats

Shots on goal: OSU: 4-8-8-20 UMD: 17-6-5-28

Shot attempts: OSU: 13-16-17-46 UMD: 26-12-16-54

Prime scoring area attempts: OSU: 6-5-6-17 UMD: 14-7-7-28

What do the numbers tell us?

Minnesota Duluth dominated the first period. After that, the game evened out, and Ohio State maybe had a slight edge in possession, but even with that edge, they weren’t generating many quality chances as they attempted their comeback.

Final Scoring

First Period

1:53 Louie Roehl from Matt Anderson and Parker Mackay 1-0 Minnesota Duluth

Anderson gathered the puck at the top of the point. He faked a shot and slid a cross-ice pass to Roehl at the right circle and Roehl put the puck into an open net.

3:04 Jared Thomas from Karson Kuhlman 2-0 Minnesota Duluth

Thomas forced a turnover at the UMD blue line and sprinted up the ice. Kuhlman hit him with a headman pass to give him a breakaway. Thomas deked to his backhand and slid the puck between the legs of Romeo for the goal.

Second Period

None

Third Period

9:27 Tanner Laczynski from Dakota Joshua and Wyatt Ege (power play) 2-1 Minnesota Duluth

Minnesota Duluth had an opportunity to clear the puck, but it was disturbed by a broken stick on the ice. Laczynski took advantage of the turnover by firing a wrist shot from the high slot that was deflected past Shepard for the goal.