It would have been better for Scott Sandelin’s nerves — and maybe his heart — if Minnesota Duluth had managed one more goal in Thursday’s Frozen Four semifinal. But the Bulldogs coach has become accustomed to tight, tense games in the NCAA tournament, so a 2-1 victory over Ohio State was no surprise.
The Bulldogs now have played 10 one-goal games in a row at the NCAA tournament, dating to a 3-2 quarterfinal loss to Boston University on March 28, 2015. Thursday’s victory moved their record to 7-3 in those nail-biters. To get to the Frozen Four, they beat Minnesota State Mankato 3-2 in overtime and defeated Air Force 2-1 in the West Regional.
“That seems to be the M.O. with our team right now,’’ Sandelin said. “Our program in this tournament, we’ve had a lot of one-goal games.
“It would have been nice to maybe get that third [goal]. But it was just important that we had a good start.’’
The Bulldogs were 5-8 in one-goal games during the regular season. “We like making it interesting,’’ forward Jared Thomas joked.
Thursday’s loss left Ohio State with a 26-10-5 record this season, but coach Steve Rohlik will remember it for more than that. Rohlik said this team was one of the best he has been around in a 27-year career, and he praised the Buckeyes for the fortitude they displayed all season.
“I don’t think there was one day all year when I had to get on them,’’ Rohlik said. “To accomplish what we did, they were on a mission. You have to pinch yourself when you’re around a group like that.’’
The 26 victories were the most for the Buckeyes since they won 27 during the 2004-05 season. They won 21 games last season, marking the program’s first back-to-back 20-win seasons since a run of four in a row from 2002-2005.
• Sandelin’s career winning percentage in the NCAA tournament is .727 (16-6), the best of any active coach. It is the fourth best in history, behind the Gophers’ Herb Brooks (.889), Michigan’s Vic Heyliger (.800) and North Dakota’s Gino Gasparini (.789).
• Thomas and Karson Kuhlman, senior linemates with the Bulldogs, are the first two players in program history to compete in four NCAA tournaments. Kuhlman played his 163rd consecutive game Thursday, the longest streak of any active Division I player and one short of the program record (Jack Connolly, 2008-12).