Minnesota Duluth vs. Notre Dame
6:30 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center • ESPN
Two survivors meet for title
Records: Minnesota Duluth 24-16-3, Notre Dame Notre Dame 28-9-2
Route to the final: Minnesota Duluth defeated Minnesota State Mankato 3-2 in overtime and Air Force 2-1 to win the West Regional; defeated Ohio State 2-1 in Frozen Four semifinals. Notre Dame defeated Michigan Tech 4-3 in overtime and Providence 2-1 to win East Regional; defeated Michigan 4-3 in Frozen Four semifinals.
Last meeting: The teams split a series in Duluth on Oct. 14-15, 2016, with UMD winning the opener 4-3 and Notre Dame taking the finale 3-1.
Series record: Notre Dame leads 22-16-4
Bulldogs at a glance: Minnesota Duluth, which earned the last at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, is seeking its second national championship and is playing in its fourth NCAA final. The Bulldogs won their first title in 2011 at Xcel Energy Center. In their other two final appearances, they lost 5-4 in four overtimes to Bowling Green in 1984 at Lake Placid, N.Y., and 3-2 to Denver last year in Chicago. Minnesota Duluth, which lost 10 players off last year’s team to graduation or the pro ranks, used two goals in the first 3:04 to beat Ohio State in the semifinals. The Bulldogs rely on a defensive corps that has five freshmen in the three pairings. Two of those five factored in UMD’s first goal against Ohio State, when Louie Roehl scored on a pass from Matt Anderson. Also, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer, freshman defenseman Scott Perunovich (36 points on 11 goals and 25 assists), was a stalwart on the blue line against the Buckeyes. Senior captain Karson Kuhlman (12-6—18) assisted on Jared Thomas’ winning goal against OSU. Goalie Hunter Shepard (24-14-1, 1.93 goals-against average, .924 save percentage) made 19 saves against the Buckeyes.
Key stats for the Bulldogs: UMD has played 10 consecutive one-goal games in the NCAA tournament, winning seven of them. They have won seven consecutive overtime games in NCAA play, dating to 1985.
Fighting Irish at a glance: Notre Dame survived a tense semifinal against Michigan, winning 4-3 on Jake Evans’ second goal of the game with 5.2 seconds left in the third period. The Fighting Irish overcame a 2-0 deficit in the second period and killed off four consecutive Michigan power plays to advance to the NCAA title game for the second time. In 2008, Notre Dame lost 4-1 to Boston College in the final. This is the second meeting between the Irish and Minnesota Duluth in the Frozen Four; UMD beat Notre Dame 4-3 in the 2011 semifinals. Goalie Cale Morris, a Mike Richter Award finalist, made 25 saves against Michigan on Thursday and improved to 27-7-1 with a nation’s best .944 save percentage and 1.94 GAA. Evans (13-32—45) and junior forward Andrew Oglevie (14-24—38) are the top two scorers for the Irish, while senior defenseman Jordan Gross of Maple Grove (10-20—30) has been clutch on both ends of the ice.
Key stats for the Fighting Irish: Notre Dame is on a five-game winning streak, with each victory by one goal. Two of those game in overtime, while the other three were in the final 31 seconds of the third period.