Playoff beards are a hockey tradition.

But ... some college kids have a tough time growing more than peach fuzz. So the team bonding concept for Minnesota Duluth meant players dyed their hair peroxide blond before the NCAA playoffs.

The Bulldogs meet the real Golden Domers, Notre Dame, in Thursday's first Frozen Four semifinal. North Dakota and Michigan play in the second game at Xcel Energy Center.

UMD players tried mohawks and mullets in previous seasons before deciding a more startling look was in order.

"We haven't needed any touchups," senior winger Justin Fontaine said. "You kind of leave it in your hair for an hour or three, and there you go."

Coach Scott Sandelin isn't sold on the process.

"My first reaction? I'm not going to do that," Sandelin said. "I have a 12-year-old son playing Pee-Wees, so I was getting pressure from him, too."

Brothers, opponents

Matt and Bryan Rust are the only brothers playing in the Frozen Four. Matt is a senior forward for Michigan, and Bryan is part of a standout freshman class at Notre Dame.

"I always wanted to play with my brother, and in shinny hockey or whatever, we had a lot of chemistry," Matt Rust said. "But when he chose a college, I think he had to make a statement that he could do it by himself."

The brothers could meet in Saturday's championship game, in which case they both believe their parents will be rooting for Matt "because he's a senior," Bryan said.

Said Matt: "I couldn't think of, if I was a parent, how happy I would be to have both of my boys in the game."

Bryan plays on a line with Calle Ridderwall who, incidentally, scored two goals, including the overtime winner, when Notre Dame beat Michigan in a 2008 Frozen Four semifinal in Denver. The Fighting Irish went on to lose the title game to Boston College.

What pressure?

The Gophers are the host team for the Frozen Four, and the block M will be on the ice next to the NCAA logo. But the Gophers didn't even make the 16-team NCAA field after being upset by Alaska Anchorage in the WCHA playoffs.

When Minnesota Duluth captain Mike Montgomery was asked about being the spotlight as the only Minnesota team in the tournament, his reply needed a rimshot: "Really, the pressure is all on the Gophers."

Lopsided bracket

Neither Notre Dame nor UMD has won a national title. The last first-time winner at the Frozen Four was Maine, in 1993. Notre Dame was in the title game three years ago, and UMD's only championship game appearance was a four-overtime loss to Bowling Green in 1984.

Michigan has an NCAA-record nine titles, while North Dakota has seven.

"Every team that wins [the title] is different," said Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson, who won two championships as Lake Superior State's coach. "You just have to put it together at the right time of year."


• The teams' practices Wednesday were open to the public, but sparsely attended. Among interested observers at Notre Dame's practice were Gophers coach Don Lucia and his son, Mario, a high school junior at Wayzata who is one of the nation's top hockey recruits. Don Lucia is a Notre Dame alum.

• Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton will drop the ceremonial first puck Thursday when UMD and Notre Dame face off.

• Air Force forward Jacques Lamoureux won the Lowe's CLASS award, which goes to the outstanding senior student-athlete in Division I hockey. Lamoureux's brother, Mario, is a junior forward for North Dakota.