Friday, April 8, 2011

2011 Frozen Four Semifinals

We attended the semifinals of the 2011 Frozen Four in St. Paul, Minnesota yesterday and wanted to share some of the action and color of the event.

The first game had the University of Minnesota-Duluth if the WCHA going up against Notre Dame from the CCHA.

The Xcel Energy Center was converted from it's usual NHL set up, most evidenced by the removal of the NHL logo banners, which were replaced by banners commemorating the NCAA champions over time.

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Additionally, the Wild logo at center ice was replaced by the Frozen Four tournament logo.

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The game looked to be a track meet in the first period as the teams were able to score at will. Notre Dame took an early lead and Duluth was able to respond. The Fighting Irish went back into the lead but Duluth scored the next two goals and the first period ended 3-2 in favor of the Bulldogs.

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Duluth extended their lead with a goal in the second period and Notre Dame made it tense with a shorthanded goal two minutes into the third period, only the Bulldogs held on to advance to the championship game on Saturday.

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Duluth was actually outshot by a wide margin, 34-21, but Kenny Reiter in goal for Duluth kept the Irish off the board as they pumped 15 shots on goal in the third period as they fought to tie the game. Duluth's power play proved to be the difference, converting of 3 of 6 chances, one of which was a text book cross-ice pass Mike Connolly converted into a gaping Fighting Irish net.

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The evening game featured the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux, also of the WCHA, against the University of Michigan Wolverines of the CCHA.

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Quite simply, the story of this game was Michigan goaltender Shawn Hunwick.

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Michigan scored first when a shot went off the post and bounced straight back into the slot. The fortunate Ben Winnett tried to control the puck, but it went off his stick toward the North Dakota goal, where it hit a defenseman and bounced right back to him. Given a second chance, he made the most of it, skating to his right around the cluster of bodies in front of the net and fired the puck past Fighting Sioux goaltender Aaron Dell, who was caught sitting in the crease, unable to respond.

No one in the 19,139 in attendance would have ever believed that would have been the end of the scoring in a game with the high powered Fighting Sioux, but Hunwick turned away wave after wave of Fighting Sioux shots.

Many of the Sioux shots went wide, Matt Frattin's wide open shot midway through the first period from the slot following a turnover in particular.

Later, Jason Gregoire of the Sioux tried to tie the game on his own with an electrifying rush, Hunwick jammed his foot against the post as Gregoire tried to slam the puck into the far side of the goal, stoning the best North Dakota chance of the game.

On another occasion, he deftly poke checked the puck as Brad Malone tried a similar move.

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The Wolverines were badly outshot for the game 40-20, but spoiled the evening for the many Fighting Sioux fans in attendance, who were anticipating an all western final. Michigan sealed the victory with an empty net goal in the last minute for the final 2-0 score.

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Check back on Monday for an amazing Frozen Four jersey gallery you won't want to miss. It's really going to be something special.

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