The first semifinal between the Bulldogs of Minnesota-Duluth and the Irish of Notre Dame features two high-powered offenses.
Led by its top-line of Jack Connolly centering Mike Connolly and Justin Fontaine — all with over 50 points — UMD plays at its best when the game is back-and-forth with good pace. Notre Dame, with freshmen T.J. Tynan and Anders Lee leading the way offensively, likes to jump out to leads and hold them – something they did exceptionally well against New Hampshire in the Northeast Regional final.
Both teams will be playing for their first national championship this weekend, and as it does so often in playoff hockey, the opening match of the Frozen Four will likely come down to who plays better in their own end and gets the bigger saves from the guys between the pipes. Notre Dame’s Mike Johnson and Minnesota-Duluth’s Kenny Reiter don’t have jaw-dropping numbers, but both are more than capable of shutting the door on opponents.
Players to watch
UMD’s Jack Connolly (17-41—58) leads the Bulldogs in points, but Mike Connolly (27-26—53) might be Minnesota-Duluth’s most-complete player. He plays in all scenarios, leads the team in goals and isn’t one to shy away from the physical, grinding aspects of the game.
The Irish will counter with a talented group of freshmen, including Minnesotan Anders Lee (24-20—44). Lee, who played his high school hockey just minutes from St. Paul, is a big-body with great hands and a knack for the net.
Notre Dame (3.44 goals-per-game) and Minnesota-Duluth (3.40) rank tenth and 11th nationally in offense. UMD has a much better power play, however, clicking at a 22.55 percentage rate, while the Irish are only scoring on 16 percent of their man-advantage chances.
Neither team has an exceptional penalty kill, something that could add up to a high-scoring game at the Xcel Energy Center this afternoon.
Mike Connolly—Jack Connolly—Justin Fontaine
Kyle Schmidt—Travis Oleksuk—JT Brown
Mike Seidel—Jake Hendrickson—Joe Basaraba
Dan DeLisle—Keegan Flaherty—David Grun
Justin Faulk—Mike Montgomery
Wade Bergman—Brady Lamb
Drew Olson—Trent Palm
Anders Lee—Ben Ryan—Ryan Guentzel
Nick Larson—Riley Sheahan—Bill Maday
Calle Ridderwall—TJ Tynan—Bryan Rust
Jeff Costello—David Gerths—Mike Voran
Stephan Johns—Sam Calabrese
Shayne Taker—Sean Lorenz
Joe Lavin—Jared Beers