Deep Depth: How Minnesota Duluth Won Its Second National Championship

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee of Violent Turtle Photography)


The University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs won their second national championship on Saturday night with a 2-1 win over Notre Dame. They won with goals from Captain Karson Kuhlman, and Jared Thomas. UMD also got timely goaltending as Hunter Shepard made 19 saves on the evening. Of his 19 saves, three of them were on solid grade-A chances for Notre Dame.

He outlasted 2018 Mike Richter Award (best goalie in college hockey) Winner, Notre Dame goalie Cale Morris. He made 33 saves but was solved early by UMD.

Initially,  Notre Dame did a better job at getting sticks into lanes and making Duluth earn its chances, however it was not enough to stop them from replicating their streak of scoring first in their last three games of this tournament.

Duluth captain Karson Kuhlman capitalized on a Notre Dame turnover. He started the play with the turnover that Jade Miller was able to return to him. Kuhlman then raced in and fired a strike from just outside the right faceoff dot that went off Notre Dame defender Tory Dello and past the glove of Cale Morris to give UMD the first lead of the night 9:06 into the first period.

Notre Dame played Duluth tough the entire first period, but could not convert on any of their chances. They had a few solid chances, but could not solve Shepard.

The lack of scoring for Notre Dame benefited UMD early on as Jared Thomas netted his second goal of the weekend 18:39 into the first. Thomas won a puck battle in the Notre Dame zone, found Kuhlman and returned the puck back to Thomas. He then walked to the side of Morris and banked a shot in off of him.

Notre Dame did get one goal 7:40 into the second on a power play as Cam Morrison found Andrew Oglevie on a nice setup. He then wired a wrist shot through the five-hole of Shepard.

For as much as Notre Dame pressured Duluth the rest of the night, the final margin was set at that point. UMD did a superb job of limiting second and third chances, and did just enough to earn the win. Duluth even prevented Notre Dame from getting a shot on net with the extra attacker for the last part of the game.


UMD’s Karson Kuhlman on the depth of his team, and the play made by Jade Miller to set him up for his goal.

“Obviously those guys have been playing great all year. That’s one thing that we knew
coming into the season that we’d have was real good depth up front. Obviously any single night lines one through four could score and all six [defenseman] can put the puck in the net. And Shep [Hunter Shepard could probably score if he came out, too.”

“But it was a good play. I think Jader got a stick on a puck and I was able to turn in transition quick and sneak one by his glove.”

Jared Thomas on the unsung heroes of UMD

” I think we have a bunch of unsung heroes on our team. There’s a guy sitting down there [ Blake Young] .He’s came such a long way since his freshman year. We had so many guys like that on our team, playing third,fourth line. And we’re never afraid when they were on the ice. We knew that they were going to do their job.And we trusted everyone in our locker room, whether the guys were playing or even the guys that weren’t in the lineup. If we needed them we knew that they’d be ready to step right in. And I think that goes unnoticed sometimes, those depth guys. So I’m so happy for our group and especially for those guys that don’t get a lot of recognition.”


Notre Dame Advances to the National Championship 4-3: A Quick Recap Plus First Look at UMD-ND in the Final

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

Coming into game two of the Frozen Four, a couple of things were relevant. Michigan is a young team with a lot of speed and offense with average goaltending. Notre Dame is slightly more experienced trying to avenge its Frozen Four semifinal loss to Denver last year. One team used its speed and puck luck to race out to an early lead. The other came back, regained momentum, and scored a harrowing goal with just under five seconds left to win the game.

Michigan was the first team that raced out to a 2-0 lead on goals from Tony Calderone and Dexter Dancs. Notre Dame was able to answer back with goals from Andrew Oglevie, Jordan Gross, and Cal Burke to take the lead. Michael Pastujov tied things up once again and looked to have the game going to overtime. Jake Evans had other ideas as he took a feed from Cam Morrison and was able to convert the game winner with under four seconds left in the game.

It was impressive to see Notre Dame come back to win its fifth consecutive one goal game.

National Championship First Look 

Minnesota Duluth takes on a talented Notre Dame side that boosts complete goaltending, solid defense, and a talented group of forwards that can score by committee. For UMD to have a chance, they need to find ways to neutralize the team speed of Notre Dame. They did a superb ob canceling the speed of Ohio State and keeping their chances limited. For a team that does not generate goals in bunches, they have to play the sound defense that has got them here to have a chance to win another national championship in St. Paul.

Look for more from today and on the championship later on today.

Duluth Does It Again: How UMD Won Another One Goal Game to Advance to the National Championship

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee of Violent Turtle Photography)

(Click here for more of Kelsey’s work, all photos free to use just please credit Kelsey Lee of Violent Turtle Photography)

In the Xcel Energy Center, we knew a few things about Minnesota Duluth and Ohio State coming into this Frozen Four matchup. Both teams showcase a similar structure of defensive integrity, sound goaltending, and opportune goal scoring. The pace of this one early on did not match that. It netted a bunch of chances, problem for Ohio State, was they were all in their own end. 1:53 into the first, Louie Roehl took a feed from fellow defenseman Matt Anderson, walked  in on the right side of the ice, and wired one past Ohio State netminder Sean Romeo from just outside the right faceoff dot.

One minute and eleven seconds later, Jared Thomas took a feed from UMD captain Karson Kuhlman, and then proceeded to race past all five OSU skaters on the way to making it a 2-0 game with a superb backhand to make it a 2-0 game.

The Thomas goal would provide the game winner for UMD but not spare Bulldogs fans a remaining game of close calls and headaches. Ohio State did generate more chances for themselves as the game went on but UMD was able to limit them to 20 shots on net for the evening.

The score remained 2-0 through a physical second period. The second stanza showed OSU’s ability to utilize its speed game to turn things around.. The Buckeyes could not solve Bulldogs netminder Hunter Shepard in the second.

The third period brought some different things to the mix. Ohio State was able to score on a lucky deflection a broken stick  on a power play. Wyatt Ege’s stick broke, and the puck went off of a UMD skate and Dakota Joshua was able to keep the puck in. He sent the puck to Tanner Laczynski who wired an elevating shot to the back of the net.  This lone OSU marker was not enough.

Ohio State had multiple chances in the final few minutes but could not tie things up. Duluth also was unable to convert on an empty net. This lead to a tense final few minutes for the Bulldogs, but they were able to do just enough to set up a national championship with the winner of the Michigan-Notre Dame nightcap.

Ohio State fans of both hockey teams have a lot to look forward to as both teams made the Frozen Four this season. OSU Head Coach Steve Rohlik talked a little about the superb seasons both had.

“To walk away and have both programs in a Frozen Four speaks volumes of where the hockey is at right now [at Ohio State]”. Both head coaches, Rohlik, and Nadine Muzerall for the Women’s Team have lead their programs to the Frozen Four this season. Both have incredibly bright futures in a great hockey market in Columbus.

Head Coach Scott Sandelin talked about how his team’s ability to play well in one goal games helped them tonight. He also noted the superb play of Hunter Shepard (Shep).

“I’d like to think it’s helped us. Obviously, it’s great when you win them… I think the big change for our team, we’ve played much better defense in the last month-and-a-half, two months. Shep has been a big part of that.”


Duluth’s Dominant First Sends Them Back to the Frozen Four

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee from Violent Turtle Photography)

In front of 8,015 screaming fans at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota,  the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs used a dominant first period against the Air Force Falcons to earn a return trip to the Frozen Four.

The Bulldogs won 2-1 thanks to goals from Joey Anderson and Nick Wolff. Duluth goalie Hunter Shepard chipped in 11 saves on 12 shots in the last two periods.

Coming into the game, the University of Minnesota Duluth needed to use its speed combined with its physicality to capitalize on its chances. They were able to hold Air Force without a shot for the first 23:56 of the game. UMD dominated in all three zones and did not give Air Force any time or space to create much offense for the first half of the game. The Bulldogs did not wait too long to open up the scoring as 9:03 into the first period, Joey Anderson took a perfect rebound from a Riley Tufte shot and backhanded it into a wide open net past Air Force goalie Billy Christopoulos.

Just over three minutes later, Nick Wolff scored on the 10th UMD shot of the game past Christopoulos who was at the top of the crease.He took a feed from Jade Miller and did not miss his chance 12:12 into the first period.

Air Force Head Coach Frank Serratore summed up the first period best: ” Duluth came out and they took us to the woodshed in that first period in a big-time way… we hadn’t seen speed like that all year.”

Air Force did not record a single shot on net during the first twenty minutes.  One interesting thing that precipitated the change in momentum was the Air Force forecheck. Until the second goal was scored they attacked Duluth with two forecheckers at all times instead of one. The Bulldogs made them pay and converted on their chances.

Once the Falcons changed to one forechecking forward, the game tightened up and swung in Air Force’s favor.

It took until 16:04 remained on the clock in the second for Air Force to record a shot. Air Force got its first six shots of the game during the second period. The Falcons had the better of play for most of the second, and controlled the pace a lot more during the period but could not score.

In the third period the Falcons finally broke through. 13:44 into the final frame, Evan Giesler banked a puck off UMD goalie Hunter Shepard from behind the goal line on the power play to make it a one goal game and provide the final margin.

For the last few minutes of the game the pace was fast and furious mostly in the UMD defensive zone. The Bulldogs were able to do just enough to advance to the Frozen Four in St. Paul where they will play the winner of Ohio State and Denver tomorrow.

Coach Serratore also summed up what Duluth’s opponent in two weeks will have to deal with: ” Whoever gets them in the Frozen Four, they’re going to have their hands full. ”

One final stat from tonight. Duluth was able to block 19 Air Force shot attempts tonight. Duluth blocked ten more shots than Air Force, and was able to keep their rebound chances limited thanks to their superb ability to clear pucks, and limit screens in front of Shepard.

Mackay’s Magic Lifts UMD to Regional Final in 3-2 OT Thriller

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

The University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs bounced back from a 2-0 deficit to the University of Minnesota State Mankato and won on a thrilling Parker Mackay game winner in overtime to set up a regional final tomorrow against Air Force.The Mackay goal came 2:28 into the overtime period.

The 3-2 comeback was keyed by three unanswered goals from the Bulldogs. Karson Kuhlman energized the team with a breakaway goal 6:38 into the second period.

Minnesota Wild prospect Nick Swaney sent the game into overtime with a power play tally 15:52 into the third period. He took a superb cross-ice feed from Jared Thomas and buried the puck into a wide open net.

During the overtime period, Minnesota Duluth had to survive an overturned goal for goaltender interference, and a Mankato player shooting a puck past UMD goalie Hunter Shepard, and off of a Maverick who was sitting on the goal line.

This furious UMD comeback was needed after Zeb Knutson and Ian Scheid opened the scoring for the Mavericks. Duluth used nearly the whole game to undo the deficit Mankato created in  a mere 06:37. UMD’s team defense eventually wore Mankato down and helped open up some chances as the game wore on.

Bulldog coach Scott Sandelin talked about the effort of senior captain Karson Kuhlman to keep his side in the game. Shortly before his first goal he nearly scored on another breakaway and seemed to give UMD a boost when they needed it the most.

For tomorrow against Air Force, UMD will be the decidedly faster team unlike tonight. It cannnot veer from its principles that helped it to comeback tonight. It needs to limit Air Force chances, and use its own speed to get multiple looks on net. Simple shots with multiple rebounds will be how UMD needs to attack Air Force’s superb defensive systems and goaltending lead by Billy Christopoulos. If UMD can activate its mobile defense corps and force Air Force to extend their forechecking a bit, it will open up more breakaway and quick chances and limit Air Force’s ability to generate deflections and tip in goals. A trip to the Frozen Four is on the line tomorrow, which ever team can best execute its game plan has the best chance of advancing.

Never Surrender: How Air Force Upset St. Cloud State 4-1

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee of Violent Turtle Photography)

Tyler Ledferd’s two goals and Billy Christopoulous’ 39 save effort against the number one overall seed St. Cloud State Huskies was enough to provide the upset. Air Force used two empty net goals to make the final margin 4-1. Blake Lizotte provided the only tally for St. Cloud on a feed from Patrick Newell 17:09 into the third. Air Force struck for its first empty net goal from Jordan Himley 1:17 after the Lizotte goal. Kyle Haak added the final empty net tally to provide the 4-1 final score.

This was the second time in history that a number 16 overall seed has defeated the number one overall seed.The last time this happened,  RIT defeated Minnesota State Mankato in the 2015 tournament.

Early on, this game was a defensive chess match. Both teams did not generate a lot of shots on the opposing netminder early on. The best early chance came from Evan Giesler early on for the Falcons. Neither team could score in the first period.

2:57 into the second period, Tyler Ledford  swatted a puck out of mid air and past St. Cloud State netminder David Hrenak to open up the scoring. The play would get reviewed for a high stick but ended up counting.  The call was so close, even Ledford was not sure if it would count. Since the call on the ice was a good goal, it was not overturned since the evidence was not conclusive despite the long review time.

A few minutes later, Ledford would strike again. This time he redirected a Matt Koch pass past David Hrenak to make it a 2-0 game 6:29 into the second. From that point on, St. Cloud State generated the majority of its chances. They utilized their team speed to generate different looks from multiple angles.

It would not matter.

The Falcons played a defensively superb third period, and limited second and third chances. They also guarded the front of the net well, and eliminated a lot of the backdoor scoring plays St. Cloud State likes to utilize with its superb speed. The Falcons blocked 29 of the 78 attempted shots from St. Cloud State on the evening. They did just enough to limit the Huskies when it mattered, and capitalized on the rare St. Cloud State mistakes.

For Air Force to have a chance tomorrow, they will have to face a fast team in Minnesota Duluth or Minnesota State Mankato once again and need to replicate the game they played today. If the Falcons can help their dialed in netminder Christopoulos see the puck well, who knows what could happen tomorrow.  Since Air Force scores a lot by comitee, whomever it faces has to utilize its speed early, and generate traffic in front of Christopoulos. If they can do that, then they can score before the Falcons’ netminder settles in. If not, then the winner of game two tonight could be in for the same fate tomorrow as St. Cloud State was tonight.

Tournament Time: NCAA Tournament Predictions-West Region

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee of Violent Turtle Photography)

This year, North Dakota just missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in over a decade. The Fighting Hawks came up just short in overtime against St. Cloud in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff, and did not get enough help on Saturday to earn a tournament bid. That being said, we have some superb hockey coming up all around the country over the next few weeks.

Below are some predictions for the West Region, where we will be providing coverage of all three games.

West Region- Sioux Falls, SD

  • 1 St. Cloud State vs 4. Air Force
    • UND fans know what to expect out of this team, they can score in bunches from anywhere on the ice. Their team speed is something to behold. Canadians’ super prospect Ryan Poehling is one of the most skilled players in this tournament. Slovak netminder David Hrenak has been a superb find, backstopping the Huskies to this tournament run. Air Force will need to play a perfect game to have a chance in this one.
    • Prediction
      • St. Cloud takes this one 4-1 to open up the first round out west.
  • 2. Minnesota St. Mankato vs. 3. Minnesota Duluth
    • High scoring defense, strong goaltending, and physical play from both teams. These are things to look for in this one. To me, this game is a complete coin flip. Look for the team with more postseason experience to draw on it to advance to the regional final.
    • Prediction
      • UMD wins this one 2-1 in a close game, where the offensive defenseman from both teams set the course for this one.
  • Final
    • St. Cloud State vs UMD
      • Both teams can move on to St. Paul in this one. I do see two key differences in this one. St. Cloud State is faster on paper than Minnesota Duluth. The team speed St. Cloud has to me will be the difference early on.Can the speed of the Poehlings, and superb play of Jimmy Schuldt on the back end vault St. Cloud to an insurmountable lead? I do not think so. If UMD can use its superior physicality to neutralize the speed of St. Cloud, and wear out the Huskies, then the result could be completely different. This game is a coin flip given all of this. In the end, look for the physical nature of UMD to carry them to St. Paul. Duluth will win this one, 3-2 in overtime. Riley Tufte will score the game winner.


Bank on It: Nick Jones Sends UND Back to the Frozen Faceoff with OT Game Winner

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

Grand Forks, ND

53 seconds into overtime, the bank was open for the University of North Dakota. Forward Nick Jones picked up the overtime winner for the Fighting Hawks off of Omaha goalie Evan Weninger. Jones tied the game for UND in the third period on a redirect past a screened Weninger on the power play.The junior forward took a rebound from a Jordan Kawaguchi shot, and used the positioning of Weninger to his advantage.In addition, that goal provided Kawaguchi with his first collegiate assist. His two tallies provided the difference for a UND side that needed a spark after giving up another two goal lead. The Jones tally sent 10351 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena home happy.

This sweep in the NCHC First Round keeps UND’s hopes for the NCAA Tournament alive. They still have more work to do. The only thing this win guarantees the Fighting Hawks is two more games next weekend. It also showed that UND can come back from deficits, and that its experience in numerous overtime games helped equip them for tough situations like tonight.

After a long review it was determined that Matt Kiersted opened the scoring 10:13 into the game as he just squeaked the puck over the goal line before Weninger pulled the puck out of the net.

A few minutes later Bowen took a feed from Trevor Olson and walked in on breakaway. He went forehand-backhand to put the puck past Weninger 14:05 into the first.

The Mavericks answered right back as  Teemu Pulkkinen redirected a powerful Lucas Buchta wrist shot past Cam Johnson 15:28 into the first. UNO got its first goal in its last six periods. on that tally.

Pulkkinen would strike again in the second period, and tie things up for the Mavericks. UNO fought back from the first period and played UND even throughout the second frame and into the third period. In the third stanza, Jake Randolph gave UNO the lead 5:41 into the final regulation frame.

Nick Jones would score the first of his two goals on a redirect past Weninger. Jones’ net front presence made it impossible for Weninger to see the puck. The score would remained tied for the final 9:46 of regulation time.

UND will await the results of the Miami-St. Cloud, and Colorado College-Denver game threes tomorrow. These results determine UND’s opponent on Friday in St. Paul.  The Fighting Hawks still have to win at least one if not both games depending on their opponents next weekend. In addition, UND cannot cough up another two goal lead, this habit has cost them games and almost hurt them tonight.



Fighting Hawks Change Their Friday Night Song With 4-0 Victory

(Credit all photos to Kelsey Lee of Violent Turtle Photography)

Coming into this postseason opener, UND needed a few things. The Fighting Hawks needed to stay out of the penalty box, play sound defense, and use their depth to their advantage. They did all of these things throughout the postseason opener against Nebraska Omaha.

to defeat the University of Nebraska Omaha Mavericks 4-0. The Fighting Hawks  used an opening tally from Shane Gersich, combined with a superb three goal second period to put away the Mavericks.

The Fighting Hawks made one key change before the game. They, lead by senior goaltender Cam Johnson, and Director of Hockey Operations Patrick Swanson, completely changed their Friday warmup song list. This seemed to help the Fighting Hawks change their mindset heading into the postseason.

In front of 10,125 fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, UND changed up the beat both during warmups and during the game.

Shane Gersich opened the scoring with a superb shot on net past a screen from Colton Poolman. He took a drop pass from Austin Poganski and wired his twelth goal of the season past Evan Weninger, UNO goalie, 13:52 into the first period. This goal would end up being the game winner, but the Fighting Hawks were no where near done scoring.

In the second period, Christian Wolanin opened up the scoring with a superb juke move to open some space and then he picked his spot to make it a 2-0 game one minute into the second on the power play.

Nick Jones added to the scoring with a superb cross ice move and scored falling down. This photo from Kelsey Lee showcases how unique this goal was.


Finally, Joel Janatuinen would round out the scoring with a superb turnover and wrist shot on Weninger to provide the end margin of victory. UND goaltender Cam Johnson would add a scoreless third frame to collect another shutout on the season.

Photos from Friday Night 


UND Hangs on for Home Ice in 2-2 Tie: Gardner Saves Senior Night With Three-on-Three OT Winner

(All Photos used in this recap are courtesy of Kelsey Lee of Violent Turtle Photography)

In front of 12, 093 screaming fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the University of North Dakota did just enough to secure another postseason series in front of their fans. They earned a 2-2 tie against St. Cloud State guaranteeing them a home date with Nebraska Omaha next weekend. They also built a little momentum winning the three-on-three overtime with a superb shot from forward Rhett Gardner 04:14 into the three-on-three frame.

UND was lead offensively by junior defenseman Christian Wolanin. He had primary assists on all three goals and keyed the offensive attack for UND. Wolanin also tied Austin Poganski for the blocked shot lead last night with three.

On senior night, freshman Grant Mismash took a Wolanin  point shot and fired it past St. Cloud goalie David Hrenak from the slot to give the Fighting Hawks a 1-0 lead 5 minutes into the game. UND would generate a lot of chances in the first but could not add any insurance to their initial 1-0 lead.

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14:39 into the 2nd period Rhett Gardner got the puck on his stick off a perfect cross-ice feed from Wolanin. The Dallas Stars’ prospect had enough time to get the perfect corner picked and he did not miss.


The third period was not kind to UND. Canadians super prospect Ryan Poehling scored another superb goal on a re-direct from a Robby Jackson shot on the power play 02:42 into the final frame. A few minutes later, 09:42 into the third, Grand Forks native Jacob Benson sent the fans in his hometown in to a panic for the final few minutes of the game. He went top shelf on Cam Johnson just after another power play had ended.

UND called timeout, and head coach Brad Berry reminded his team that “hey, we’re fine.”  Berry was able to calm the ensuing storm from St. Cloud and helped steer his team into the first overtime frame where it generated two shots on net. Neither of them found the back of the net, and UND guaranteed home ice at the end of the first overtime based on Omaha and Colorado College’s regulation losses.

Next week, UND can hopefully learn its lessons from this series to play against Omaha. The Mavericks bring the best power play in the conference, lead by the best player on the power play, senior forward David Pope, to the Ralph. UND gave up five power plays last night, and one goal shorthanded. UNO converts just over 25 percent of their power plays, so staying out of the penalty box next weekend will be crucial for the Fighting Hawks.


(Game Highlights, Video Courtesy of UND Insider)