Michigan kept plowing through WCHA teams on Thursday, upsetting No. 1-ranked North Dakota 2-0 on Thursday night in the second semifinal of the NCAA Frozen Four at Xcel Energy Center.
Wolverines goalie Shawn Hunwick made 40 saves and handed the Fighting Sioux their first shutout since Nov. 20.
Michigan forward Ben Winnett scored the game-winner, putting in his own rebound at 13:26 of the first period, and Scooter Vaughan added an empty-net goal with 36 seconds to play.
The Wolverines will face their fourth consecutive WCHA opponent when they play Minnesota Duluth at 6 p.m. Saturday for the championship. UMD beat Notre Dame 4-3 in the first semifinal.
A sellout crowd of 19,139 -- overwhelmingly composed of North Dakota fans -- tried to encourage the Sioux. But coach Red Berenson's second-ranked Wolverines were well-prepared. They started the game hitting the Sioux hard and never backed off.
"This is real tough to take," North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol said. "To lose a hockey game and have your season end."
The Sioux (32-9-3) went into the Frozen Four with a 15-game unbeaten streak, and had scored an average of 5.2 goals per game in that span. Michigan (29-10-4) was hot, too, and the victory gave the Wolverines 11 wins in their past 12 games. Included in that span are triumphs over the WCHA's Nebraska-Omaha (3-2 in overtime) and Colorado College (2-1) in the NCAA West Regional.
"If you were going to plan a road game like this, this is how you would plan it," said Berenson, who must have felt Michigan was playing at Ralph Engelstad Arena, not Xcel. "To score the first goal against this team was huge. You would hate to play from behind against them."
Winnett's goal came on the Wolverines' sixth shot.
"The one thing we didn't plan was taking as many penalties as we took," Berenson said. "I thought we were lucky, and obviously our goalie has to be our best penalty killer."
He was. But the penalty killers did their job, too, holding North Dakota to five shots on four power plays.
"Our team hung on," Berenson said. "Who would have thought the first goal of the game would be the deciding goal? But you never know. You watch the earlier game and there were five goals scored in the first period. This game you saw one goal scored in the first 59 minutes."
By a most improbable player. Winnett had only three goals entering the game and none since Dec. 30.
Hunwick, meantime, continued his sharp play. He stopped 48 of 51 shots in the West Regional and was named the MVP.
"I don't think [the Sioux] spread us out too much," said the 5-7 Hunwick, whose career high for saves is 45 in an overtime game earlier this season. "I had only one real good moving save when [Matt] Frattin hit [Chay Genoway] on the slot. Other than that, it was a lot of straight-on shots. A lot of shots on the front of the net that I was able to see.
"Our team did a good job of blocking shots down there. I don't know if I had to make a save once their goalie was pulled. Guys were diving around like crazy."
North Dakota pulled goalie Aaron Dell, who finished with 18 saves, with 1:18 left. In the last minute, the Sioux's Evan Trupp, who took 10 shots in the game, had two shots blocked.
So on Saturday, Michigan will try to win its 10th national title, and UMD, a No. 3 seed in its regional, its first. Might seem like a mismatch on paper, but as Berenson says, who knows?