Tuesday, March 24, 2009

West #2: Minnesota Duluth

University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs

Minnesota-Duluth WCHA Tournament Champions
2 seed vs. Princeton, West Regional (Minneapolis, MN)
8:00 CDT, Friday, March 27, ESPNU
Record: 21-12-8, WCHA Playoff Champions
Coach: Scott Sandelin (143-172-45)

Scoring Summary:
3.00 2.23 +0.77

Leading Scorers:
# Player G-A--Pts
37 Justin Fontaine 15-32--47
18 MacGregor Sharp 25-22--47
22 Mike Connolly 12-26--38

# Player Sv % GAA W-L-T
32 Alex Stalock 0.926 2.10 20-12-1

Stats via CollegeHockeyNews.com

Minnesota Duluth (it's really hard not to hyphenate it, but apparently, that is the preferred style) may be the Dante Hicks of this year's tournament, they're not even supposed to be here today!  Except, that's not really fair, because they have been in the Pairwise mix all season, despite a rough stretch in the WCHA.  But finishing strong can help make your case, and that's just what UMD did.

Finishing seventh in the WCHA in the regular season, the Bulldogs (named after the 148th Fighter Wing stationed in Duluth) swept fourth place team Colorado College (in Colorado Springs), then beat Minnesota in the 4 v 5 game in the Twin Cities, then North Dakota, and then Denver to assure themselves a spot in the tournament with an automatic bid.  In doing this, the Bulldogs became the first WCHA team to win three straight games to take the conference tournament title (in 34 previous tries), largely due to the lockdown defense of goalie Alex Stalock and the Bulldog blueliners, allowing just  three goals in that span, and posting back to back shutouts in the WCHA semis and finals.  Their reward will be a trip back to the Twin Cities (admittedly, to Mariucci in Minneapolis instead of the Xcel in Saint Paul) where they will get to face Princeton, with the potential to face Denver again in the second round.

Quick Hits:

  • Four Timers Club. It is only fitting that the Bulldogs will open against Princeton, Hobey Baker's alma mater, in the first around of the tournament.  For along with "The U" (which in college hockey parlance means Minnesota, not Miami), Minnesota Duluth has been the home of four of the 28 winners of the Hobey Baker Award.  Defenseman Tom Kurvers and right wing Bill Watson in 1984 and 1985 respectively, making them one of only two schools to claim back to back winners (Maine is the other one in 1992-93) and then-left wing Chris Marinucci in 1994 and right wing Junior Lessard in 2004.  Bet heavily on a UMD player winning in 2014, it just seems like one of those things. 

  • A Quarter Century Ago... The closest that Minnesota Duluth has ever come to winning the NCAA Championship was in 1984, and it arrived there in one of the strangest ways.  The Bulldogs first faced off against Clarkson in a two-game total goals series in Duluth, winning the first game 6-2.  However, in the second game, the Knights scored six as well, meaning that Duluth's three goals in the losing effort was good enough to move them forward to Lake Placid for the national semifinals.  There, they beat North Dakota in overtime to advance to the national championship game against Bowling Green where they would fall in four overtimes to the mighty Falcons by a score of 5-4.  Freshman goalie Rick Kostl made 55 saves, tying an NCAA tournament record, which would stand only one year until Chris Terreri's 62 save effort for Providence the following season.  BU's Rick DiPietro, by the way, holds the tournament record with 77 saves against St. Lawrence in a four overtime game in the 2000 East Regional.

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