Bulldogs win second national title
ST. PAUL, Minn.—The last time Minnesota Duluth walked out of the Xcel Energy Center, it thought the season was over.
This time, it will leave with the NCAA national championship trophy.
The Bulldogs completed an improbable run from being the final at-large team to make the NCAA tournament—they made it by 0.0001 of an RPI percentage point—with a 2-1 victory over Notre Dame on Saturday night in the Xcel Energy Center.
Just as the Bulldogs had done in the previous three tournament games, they built a 2-0 lead in the first period, gave up one goal, then hung on for another one-goal victory.
The Bulldogs (25-16-3) won all four NCAA games by one goal, becoming the first team in college hockey history to achieve that feat.
It marked the third time in the past six years that the final at-large team to make the NCAA tournament has won the national championship.
Yale did it in 2013, Providence did it in 2015 and now Minnesota Duluth in 2018.
The final at-large team to make the tournament is 15-3 in that span, while the No. 1 overall seed has a worse record at 13-5.
Notre Dame, which had won its last five games in the last 31 seconds of regulation or in overtime, couldn't find more magic at the end of the game Saturday night.
With a heavily partisan Minnesota Duluth crowd on hand—just like when the Bulldogs won their only other NCAA title in 2011 in the Xcel Energy Center—fans chanted U-M-D as the clock ticked toward zero.
For the third-straight game, Minnesota Duluth jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period.
At 9:06, the Bulldogs forced a turnover in the neutral zone and former Grafton-Park River forward Jade Miller sent senior Karson Kuhlman on a rush up the right side.
Kuhlman faked a slap shot and fired a wrister that deflected off of the stick of Notre Dame defenseman Tory Dello and past Irish goalie Cale Morris on the glove side.
The Bulldogs tacked on a second goal late in the period when senior Jared Thomas fired a shot from a bad angle—just a couple of inches over the goal line—that snuck past Morris on the short side.
It was an uncharacteristic goal to allow for Morris, who was awarded the Mike Richter Award as the nation's top goalie one day earlier.
Notre Dame made it 2-1 at 7:40 of the second period, taking advantage of its second power-play chance of the game.
Forward Cam Morrison set up Andrew Oglevie in front of the net on a rush, and Oglevie tapped it past Bulldog goalie Hunter Shepard.
But the Bulldogs again shut it down in the third.
They moved to 55-0-3 since February 2015 when leading after two periods.
Warroad's Kobe Roth, who was injured in the first period, returned to the ice to celebrate the championship.