PITTSBURGH — From Alex Iaffalo and Hunter Miska to Scott Perunovich and Hunter Shepard to Nick Swaney to the Cates brothers, Minnesota Duluth has had quite a ride over the past five hockey seasons. Beginning with a national runner-up finish in 2017 to Thursday night's 3-2 national semifinal loss to Massachusetts, coach Scott Sandelin and his team took Bulldogs fans on quite a ride. Here are some highlights:
* UMD wins the 2016-17 NCHC Frozen Faceoff, then reaches the NCAA Frozen Four with overtime wins over Ohio State and Boston University in Fargo. After a 2-1 semifinal win over Harvard, the Bulldogs fall 3-2 to Denver in the championship game. Final record: 28-7-7.
— one-ten-thousandth of a percentage point over Minnesota in the final PairWise Ratings. UMD makes the most of that opportunity, edging Minnesota State Mankato 3-2 in overtime and Air Force 2-1 in Sioux Falls to reach the Frozen Four in St. Paul. Back in the arena where they won their first national title in 2011, the Bulldogs do it again, beating Ohio State and Notre Dame, each by 2-1 scores. Final record: 25-16-3.
* UMD wins the NCHC Frozen Faceoff in a stirring, two-OT game against St. Cloud State, then proceeds to hang back-to-back NCAA banners. The Bulldogs edge Bowling Green 2-1 in OT, then beat Quinnipiac, Providence and Massachusetts for the championship. Final record: 29-11-2.
* Poised for a three-peat, the Bulldogs were in line for a No. 1 NCAA regional seed before COVID-19 forced the shutdown of sports in mid-March. One bright spot: Defenseman Perunovich wins the Hobey Baker Award. Final record: 22-10-2
* After heavy offseason losses that included Perunovich and two-time NCAA champion goalie Shepard, the Bulldogs improve as the season goes along. Their signature win: a 3-2, five-overtime triumph over North Dakota in the Midwest Regional final in Fargo in the longest game in NCAA tournament history. Final record: 15-11-2.
"This group fought some odds and grew together,'' Sandelin said after Thursday's loss, which left the Bulldogs' five-year run with a 119-55-16 record. "I just told them to be proud of the accomplishment. It's such a difficult thing to do. [The seniors] don't know this feeling [of losing in the Frozen Four].''