Minnesota Duluth coach Scott Sandelin sat with a blank look on his face during the postgame news conference Thursday. Question after question, he and his players were asked about the special teams play in their NCAA Frozen Four semifinal against Notre Dame.
There on yellow paper, the stats stuck out for everyone to see:
On top of being outshot 34-21 in the game and allowing a goal less than a minute in, the Bulldogs handed Notre Dame five power-play opportunities and gave up a shorthanded goal early in the third period.
All this, yet they were the second team into the interview room as the one with a chance to hang a championship banner.
UMD countered its poor play by rising up when it mattered. The Bulldogs escaped with a 4-3 victory over the Fighting Irish, thanks to scoring three power-play goals and riding out the third period in fine sit-on-it fashion.
"Pretty exciting," Sandelin said. "The third wasn't our best period. But our guys kind of weathered the storm at the end and got some gutsy performances."
Four players scored for the Bulldogs, capped by Jack Connolly's power-play goal 5 minutes, 51 seconds into the second period set up by pure patience along the point from Justin Fontaine.
"We were just able to shut down those guys and then wanted to come out and bury a few ourselves," Fontaine said.
The victory secured a spot in UMD's second national championship game, but if the Bulldogs have any sights on bringing home the hardware, they'll have plenty to clean up before Saturday's final against wildMichigan, which upset North Dakota 2-0.
"They kind of outchanced us there and outshot us, but I think it just showed our team's composure," said freshman defenseman Justin Faulk, who assisted on two of UMD's power-play goals and added another at even strength. "We got the puck out when we needed to, and our guys were always down blocking shots."
Junior goalie Kenny Reiter shook off an unstable start to the game to finish with 31 saves, the fourth time in five games he has made at least 30 for a victory.
The teams played through 11 penalties in the first two periods Thursday. Notre Dame senior Calle Ridderwall -- who scored that shorthander 2:05 into the third to make it a one-goal game -- called the officiating from the ECAC crew "questionable."
Coach Jeff Jackson had a more tamed response.
"We had WCHA officials in the East [Regional], and I thought it was much different officiating," he said. "And that's what the kids don't totally understand. I'm not critical of the officiating; I'm just saying it was different."
What Jackson was critical of was the effort the Fighting Irish gave in a lackluster, four-shot second period after UMD took its 4-2 lead on Connolly's power-play goal. Notre Dame had three power-play opportunities in the period and mustered only one shot on goal.
"I gave it to them," Jackson said of his between-periods message.
Notre Dame responded by outshooting the Bulldogs 15-2 over the final 20 minutes, but Minnesota Duluth hung on.
The Bulldogs finally have the chance to exercise the demons of Lake Placid, N.Y., where they lost in quadruple overtime to Bowling Green in the 1984 championship game.
"They find a way," Sandelin said of the Bulldogs, who have not lost consecutive games in more than a year. "And we're very fortunate."