ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, the Bulldogs are off to Buffalo.
Top-seeded Minnesota Duluth clinched its third consecutive NCAA regional title and trip to the Frozen Four on Sunday via a 3-1 victory over second-seeded Quinnipiac in the Midwest Regional final at PPL Center.
UMD will face Providence at 4 p.m. CT on Thursday, April 11, in Buffalo, N.Y., in the Frozen Four semifinals. Denver and Massachusetts will meet in the second semifinal that night.
Senior center Peter Krieger, sophomore wing Kobe Roth and senior captain Parker Mackay scored for the defending national champions in their most lopsided NCAA tournament victory since beating Minnesota 4-1 in a Northeast Regional semifinal on March 27, 2015.
Since that win, the Bulldogs played in 12 consecutive one-goal NCAA tournament games, winning nine. UMD’s past four NCAA wins were by a 2-1 margin, including Saturday’s overtime victory over Bowling Green.
Krieger scored his ninth goal of the season off a feed from sophomore defenseman Scott Perunovich to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead with just under five minutes to play in the second period.
The poise and patience of Perunovich created the scoring chance just seconds after a UMD power play expired. The former Hibbing-Chisholm Bluejacket had an open look at the Quinnipiac net after taking a cross-zone pass from sophomore wing Nick Swaney, but with goaltender Andrew Shortridge staring the Bulldogs defenseman down, Perunovich held the puck until he got all five Bobcat skaters to bend his way. That’s when he slung the puck back to the opposite side, where Krieger was waiting to fire the puck from the back door to the top shelf.
The “Miller Line” put the Bulldogs ahead 2-0 with just over five minutes to play in the game on a three-on-one rush. It’s namesake, Miller, made the well-timed play on this goal, getting the lone Quinnipiac defender to take a late diving poke check his way. Miller evaded and backhanded the puck to Roth, who netted his eighth goal of the season.
Quinnipiac finally got a puck by Bulldogs junior goaltender Hunter Shepard with 3:03 to go in the third, but needed a two-man advantage to do so via a power play and empty net. Senior wing Craig Martin was able to get open for a shot he put top-shelf to pull the Bobcats within one.
The captain, Mackay, clinched the win via an empty-net goal in the final minute. He scored both goals Saturday and was named the regional tournament’s most outstanding player.
In the battle of Mike Richter Award finalists for national goaltender of the year, Shepard stopped 22 shots while Shortridge made 23 saves.
Minnesota Duluth 0-1-2-3
First period - No scoring. Penalties - Brogan Rafferty, QU (tripping), 17:23.
Second period - 1. UMD, Peter Krieger 9 (Scott Perunovich, Nick Swaney), 15:12. Penalties - Dylan Samberg, UMD (interference), 4:32; Odeen Tufto, Qu (interference), 13:03.
Third period - 2. UMD, Kobe Roth 8 (Jade Miller, Billy Exell), 14:58; 3. QU, Craig Martin 11 (Brogan Rafferty), 17:57 (pp) (ea); 4. UMD, Parker Mackay 15, 19:03 (en). Penalties - Mikey Anderson, UMD (delay of game), 16:44.
Shots on goal - QU 4-9-12-22; UMD 11-6-6-26. Goalies - Andrew Shortridge, QU (25 shots-23 saves); Hunter Shepard, UMD (22-21). Power plays - QU 1-of-2; UMD 0-of-2. Referees - Chris Ciamaga, Mike Schubert. Linesmen - Brendan Lewis, Joe Sherman. Att. - N/A.