Frozen Four Semifinals :: UMD vs. Notre Dame

Growing up, I didn’t know much about hockey other than what I read about the hockey cards I collected in Beckett Hockey Monthly. My favorite player was Brett Hull and I couldn’t get my hands on enough Eric Lindros and Pavel Bure cards. I watched the occasional hockey game on television, had a University of Wisconsin hockey jersey in elementary school and attempted to skate once when I was seven. That’s what I knew about hockey after growing up in a western Wisconsin town focused on wrestling during the winter months.

My favorite hockey player and former UMD Bulldog, Brett Hull.

So it would seem like a snowball’s chance in hell that I would end up living in a hockey crazed town shooting dozens of games a year and slowly, but surely figuring out why everyone is so crazy about this sport. I’ll admit it’s hard for me to really get into any sport that I can’t directly participate in. I don’t know how to skate and the next closest thing that I can get involved in, Broomball, isn’t quite the same. Despite all this, I’ve been keenly watching this year’s University of Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey team. They started the season on a tear earning the top ranking in D1 college hockey back in November before fading a bit in the second half, but they got hot at the right time.

After dispatching Union 2-0 in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the Bulldogs faced top seed Yale for a spot in the Frozen Four and outgunned the lesser Bulldogs 5-3 to advance to their first Frozen Four since the 2003-04 season. Not since the 1983-84 season have the Bulldogs advanced to the NCAA finals and that is the only time in school history they’ve done that. I’m sure UMD fans haven’t forgotten that game either. The Bulldogs lost a 5-4 decision in four overtimes to Bowling Green. Ouch.

This year UMD will face Michigan in the finals. Winners of nine NCAA hockey championships, the Wolverines will be looking to push that number to double digits. However, UMD will be looking to bring home their first ever NCAA hockey championship. If that happens, in this city obsessed with hockey, it would truly be a momentous occasion. Think rioting in Detroit after the Pistons won their NBA title, but instead replace the fire with Mojakka and people starting the fires with Duluthians singing “We Didn’t Start the Fire…” Ok so there is not going to be any rioting here, but if they can repeat a performance like the one illustrated in the photos below, Duluth is going to be a happy place for quite some time.

UMD goaltender Kenny Reiter (right) and Wade Bergman (left) watch a puck Reiter deflected sail over the head of Notre Dame's David Gerths Thursday evening during an NCAA semifinal hockey game at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

UMD goaltender Kenny Reiter deflects a Notre Dame shot Thursday afternoon in the NCAA semifinals at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

UMD players line up during the playing of the national anthem before their NCAA semifinal game against Notre Dame.

UMD students Matt Morris (left) and Andy Fondrick (right) cheer on the Bulldogs during introductions before the start of their NCAA semifinal hockey game against Notre Dame Thursday afternoon at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. Fondrick is a freshman at UMD while Morris is a junior.

LEFT: UMD's Travis Oleksuk (center) battles for the puck against Notre Dame's Jeff Costello (left, 11) and Ryan Guentzel (27) Thursday evening during an NCAA semifinal hockey game at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. RIGHT: UMD's Kyle Schmidt celebrates his first period goal in front of Notre Dame's Nick Larson (right, 26).

UMD's Kenny Reiter watches Notre Dame players celebrate after they scored a first period goal Thursday evening during an NCAA semifinal hockey game at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

UMD's Justin Fontaine (right) couldn't get his shot past Notre Dame goaltender Mike Johnson (2nd from right) Thursday evening during an NCAA semifinal hockey game at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. UMD's Jack Connolly (2nd from left) couldn't put the rebound in while being defended by Notre Dame's Stephen Johns (left, 28).

UMD goaltender Kenny Reiter looks around during a break in action.

UMD's Kyle Schmidt (right) celebrates his first period goal in front of Notre Dame's Kevin Lind (center, 25) and goaltender Mike Johnson (25) Thursday evening during an NCAA semifinal hockey game at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. Schmidt's goal tied the score at 2-2.

UMD's Kyle Schmidt (left, 7) celebrates his goal with teammates Thursday afternoon during an NCAA semifinal hockey game at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

UMD goaltender Kenny Reiter (left) blocks a shot from Notre Dame's Ben Ryan (2nd from left) while being defended by Justin Faulk (25) and J.T. Brown (right, 23) Thursday evening during an NCAA semifinal hockey game at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

UMD's Kenny Reiter was beat by Notre Dame's Calle Ridderwall in the third period to cut the score to 4-3 in favor of UMD.

UMD's Trent Palm (right) battles Notre Dame's Nick Larson (left) for the puck Thursday afternoon during an NCAA semifinal hockey game at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

UMD players celebrate with Mike Connolly (center) after his first period goal put the Bulldogs up 3-2 over Notre Dame Thursday afternoon during an NCAA semifinal hockey game at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

UMD's Brady Lamb (bottom) and Notre Dame's Riley Sheahan (top) got tangled up on the ice during their NCAA semifinal hockey game at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

UMD's Kyle Schmidt (top, 7) and J.T. Brown (bottom, 23) pursue Notre Dame's Riley Sheahan (middle, 4) Thursday evening during an NCAA semifinal hockey game at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

LEFT: UMD's J.T. Brown celebrates his first period goal against Notre Dame during an NCAA semifinal hockey game Thursday afternoon at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. RIGHT: UMD's Jack Connolly (left) celebrates his second period goal with teammate Justin Fontaine (right) to put UMD up 4-2.

UMD's Justin Faulk (right) kept the puck away from goaltender Kenny Reiter (left) and from Notre Dame's Nick Larson (center, on ice) during an NCAA semifinal hockey game Thursday afternoon at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

TOP: A UMD fan reacts after the Bulldogs went up 4-2 against Notre Dame. BOTTOM: A UMD fan reacts after Notre Dame cut the lead to 4-3 shortly into the third period.

UMD players Justin Fontaine (37), Kenny Reiter (35) and Mike Connolly (22) celebrate their 4-3 victory NCAA semifinal victory over Notre Dame with team manager Dale Haagenson Thursday evening at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.