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UMD, Michigan to meet for NCAA title

Friday, 04.08.2011 / 12:11 AM / On Campus

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UMD, Michigan to meet for NCAA title
Minnesota-Duluth is on the way to the NCAA championship game for just the second time in school history.
Shawn Hunwick's spectacular goaltending was too much for top-seeded North Dakota.

The Fighting Sioux, the highest seed remaining in the Frozen Four, outshot Michigan 40-20 -- but Hunwick stopped all 40 shots to give the Wolverines a 2-0 victory and a berth in Saturday's NCAA championship game at St. Paul, Minn.

Michigan (29-10-4) will try for its 10th NCAA-record 10th title when it meets Minnesota-Duluth in the championship game at the Xcel Energy Center. The Bulldogs opened the Frozen Four by holding off Notre Dame 4-3. They will be making only their second trip to the championship game -- the other one was a four-OT loss to Bowling Green in 1984.

Michigan hasn't won it all since 1998 and wasn't expected to beat North Dakota, which came into the game 14-0-1 in its last 15 games and outscored RPI and Denver 12-1 while rolling through the Midwest Regional.

But Ben Winnett gave the Wolverines the lead when he fired a rebound behind Aaron Dell at 13:26 of the first period.

The rest of the night belonged to Hunwick, a senior walk-on who earned his fourth shutout of the season

North Dakota, which came in second in the nation in scoring at 4.14 goals per game, had no answer for Hunwick despite outshooting the Wolverines 26-10 over the final two periods and 40-20 for the game.

North Dakota pulled Dell with 1:10 remaining, but Hunwick made three stops on point-blank shot before Scooter Vaughn hit the empty net with 35.8 seconds left.

"I saw the puck pretty good from the start," Hunwick said. "We gave up 40 shots, but the guys played pretty good defense."

There was a scary moment midway through the opening period when North Dakota freshman forward Brock Nelson slammed back-first into the boards after a clean-but-hard check by Michigan captain Luke Glendening. Nelson, a first-round pick by the New York Islanders last year, was taken off the ice a stretcher and to a hospital as a precaution with what North Dakota called an upper-body injury.

In the first game, Jack Connolly's power-play goal early in the second period proved to be the winner as the Bulldogs outlasted Notre Dame.

J.T. Brown, Mike Connolly and Kyle Schmidt also scored for the Bulldogs (25-10-6). Justin Fontaine and defenseman Justin Faulk each had three assists, and Kenny Reiter made 34 saves for the win. Reiter has made 30 or more saves in each of UMD's three tournament wins.

"Sometimes in the year, your goalie needs to win games for you," UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. "[Reiter's] been outstanding for us, and we went with him because we know he's capable of playing that way."

UMD, which had five power-play goals while winning the East Regional to make the national semifinals, scored three more against Notre Dame while killing off all five Irish power plays.

T.J. Tynan, Jeff Costello and Calle Ridderwall scored for Notre Dame (25-14-5). Mike Johnson allowed four goals on just 21 shots.

Connolly one-timed a pass from Cody Danberg to give Minnesota-Duluth a 4-2 advantage at 5:51 of the second period. Ridderwall brought Notre Dame within one by scoring a shorthanded goal 2:05 into the third period, but the Irish got no closer despite outshooting UMD 15-2 in the third period.

Costello opened the scoring just 49 seconds into the contest, but Brown countered at 3:04 with the first of UMD's power-play goals. Tynan fired home a rebound at 9:46 put Notre Dame on top again, but Schmidt scored just over a minute later and Mike Connolly's power-play goal at 13:31 made it 3-2 after one period.

"Obviously, the difference in the game was special teams," Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said. "It's exactly what we saw on film. I thought we played a good game five-on-five, but that game was dictated by special teams."

The Bulldogs are trying to become the 18th program to capture a Division I hockey national title. There hasn't been a first-timer since Maine in 1993.

"It's an unbelievable feeling," Jack Connolly said. "We're looking to make history in our program. We've worked hard all year and this was our ultimate goal, to get to this game on Saturday."

Material from school media was used in this report.
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