UMD, Notre Dame to Meet for Title
Bulldogs start fast, Irish finish in dramatic fashion to set up title game.

Hunter Shepard rejoices with teammates after the final buzzer (Photo by Larry Radloff).

A pair of teams that have shown a flair for the dramatic captured one-goal victories Thursday in St. Paul, setting up a Minnesota Duluth-Notre Dame national championship game on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/TSN2).

Minnesota Duluth topped Ohio State, 2-1, in the Bulldogs’ 10th consecutive NCAA Tournament game that was decided by one goal. Notre Dame scored with 5.2 seconds remaining to beat Michigan, 4-3, the fifth straight Irish game that was decided by a goal in overtime or the final minute of regulation.

While the margins of victory were the same, the games followed very different scripts. Minnesota Duluth used a fast start and held on against OSU, while Notre Dame came from behind to set up the decisive tally by captain Jake Evans (Toronto, Ont./St. Michael’s-OJHL/MTL).

Fast Start Fuels UMD

UMD jumped on Ohio State early with two quick goals, as Louie Roehl (Eden Prairie, Minn./Minnesota Wilderness-NAHL) and Jared Thomas (Hermantown, Minn./Sioux City-USHL) scoring in the first 3:04 of the game. The Bulldogs outshot the Buckeyes 17-4 in the first period, but after the early goals, OSU’s Sean Romeo (Cary, N.C./Youngstown-USHL) kept them off the board.

A power-play midway through the third period pulled the Buckeyes within a goal and set up a furious finish. They pressured to the end but Hunter Shepard (Cohasset, Minn./Bismarck-NAHL) held strong, finishing with 19 saves including seven in the third.

Minnesota Duluth returns to the national championship game for the second year in a row after falling to Denver last year, 3-2. The Bulldogs will seek their second national championship, having won their first in 2011 the last time the Frozen Four was in St. Paul.

Late Tally Lifts Notre Dame

Evans, the leading career scorer in the Frozen Four field, scored twice in the nightcap to lead Notre Dame, including the late game-winning goal.

The Irish had to recover from a 2-0 deficit as Michigan’s potent first line accounted for the first two goals of the game. Seniors Tony Calderone (Trenton, Mich./Sioux Falls-USHL) and Dexter Dancs (Vancouver, B.C./Vernon-BCHL) scored in the first period and then early in the second.

Notre Dame responded with the next two goals to tie the score before the third period. Cal Burke (Boxborough, Mass./Cedar Rapids-USHL) then gave the Irish a 3-2 lead early in the third.

Michigan freshman Michael Pastujov (Bradenton, Fla./U.S. NTDP) tied the score with 5:22 remaining. The game appeared headed to overtime before Cam Morrison (Aurora, Ont./Youngstown-USHL) raced into the offensive zone and fed Evans for the winner.

Notre Dame will seek its first national championship in just its second appearance in the title game. The Irish lost to Boston College in 2008.

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