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Duluth advances to Frozen Faceoff with 5-3 win over Miami

DULUTH — Minnesota Duluth is heading back to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff for the second consecutive season, following up its 5-4 overtime victory on Friday with a 5-3 win on Saturday to sweep seventh-seeded Miami in a best-of-three NCHC quarterfinal series at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.

The second-seeded Bulldogs — who are the first to advance to the NCHC semifinals — will play an opponent yet to be determined at a time yet to be determined on Friday at Target Center in Minneapolis.

The last time UMD made back-to-back conference championship weekends was in WCHA in 2011 and 2012.

The Bulldogs also swept Miami a year ago in the NCHC quarterfinals in Duluth to advance to their first ever NCHC Frozen Faceoff where they lost in the championship to St. Cloud State.

The Bulldogs got their first three goals Saturday from the unlikely sources. Then their leading scorer came through with the game-winner with under five minutes to play in regulation.

Senior wing Alex Iafallo — the NCHC regular season scoring champion and finalist for league player of the year — blew by RedHawks sophomore defenseman Grant Hutton to get the game-winner off clean for his 17th goal of the season and 40th point.

Senior center and captain Dominic Toninato of Duluth clinched with win with an empty netter with just over a minute to play.

Just over two minutes prior to that, junior center Jared Thomas — who a week ago ended a lengthy goal drought — tied the game at 3-3 with under seven minutes to play. He picked up his second goal of the season and second in three games by tossing a shot on net from just below the faceoff circle, and barely above the end line.

Senior defenseman Brenden Kotyk fired through his third goal of the season and seventh of his career from the slot to finish off a strong cycle by senior forwards Alex Iafallo and Dominic Toninato just under three minutes into Game 2 to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead.

Freshman defenseman Nick Wolff launched a rocket from the point for his first college goal in 31 games at 8:59 of the second to make it 2-0 Bulldogs. Wolff's shot bounced off the post, off Miami freshman goaltender Chase Munroe and across the goal line.

The RedHawks rattled off three-straight goals to overcome UMD's initial 2-0 lead. They got back within one less than two minutes after Wolff scored via a power play goal by senior center Justin Greenberg. Miami then scored twice in the opening 3:17 of the third period to take a 3-2 lead on UMD.

Sophomore center Kiefer Sherwood tied the game 1:25 into the period shortly after a Bulldogs power play that carried over from the second expired. Senior wing Anthony Louis then stole a puck from UMD sophomore defenseman Neal Pionk and fired a shot in that got deflected en route to the back of the net, making it 3-2 Miami.

The Bulldogs dominated the opening 20 minutes Saturday, but only came away with the Kotyk goal.

Miami was held without a shot attempt for first six minutes of Game 2. A boarding penalty at 6:06 of the first finally allowed the RedHawks to get a shot attempt off — it missed the net — in the opening 30 seconds of the power play. Miami finally got a shot on goal in the closing seconds of the Wolff penalty.

After an initial 10-0 advantage, UMD outshot the RedHawks 16-4 overall in the first with Miami's first even-strength shot attempt not coming until the 12:10 mark of the first.

Shot attempts were 27-8 in the first in favor of UMD.

Matt Wellens

College hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune covering the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs men's and women's teams, as well as the NCAA Division III programs at St. Scholastica and Wisconsin-Superior.

(218) 723-5317