St. Paul, MN — In their six-year existence the National Collegiate Hockey Conference has won three NCAA championship. That’s back-to-back-to-back. After watching the semi-finals of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Frozen Faceoff, I am convinced that NCAA title number four could come this season.
After a very entertaining free-wheeling game between CC and SCSU, the evening game between the University of Minnesota Duluth and Denver University proved to be a tense, defensive stalemate.
During the first two periods, there wasn’t a lot of space to roam. Every inch of the ice was contested. Offensive opportunities were at a minimum, neither team was able to dent the twine. There was zero scoring, defense, defense, and more defense. When the Pioneers looked like they were going to score the game’s first goal, Bulldog senior forward Parker MacKay shot a puck destined to the net out of harm’s way.
After putting a defensive clinic in the first two periods, the fans were treated to an exciting period of hockey.
At the 00:42 mark of the third period, the Bulldogs would finally break through with a goal from freshman forward Cole Koepke. The Pioneers challenged the goal for goalie interference, but in the end, they didn’t prevail. Good goal.
At the 10:35 mark of the third period, it appeared that the Bulldogs forward Jesse Jacques had scored the game’s second goal. In the end, the on-ice officials ruled that Filip Larsson was interfered with. Watching the replay, there was a lot of action in the Pioneers net and it did appear that Larsson was interfered with.
At the 01:38 mark of the third period, the Bulldogs would ice the game with an empty net goal by Louie Roehl. At the 19:33 mark of the third period, with Larsson sitting on the bench, Koepke would score his second goal of the game.
The game featured two oustanding goaltenders. Tonight, Hunter Shepard (stopped 25 of 25 shots) was the difference in this game. Pioneers goalie Filip Larsson was also stellar in net stopping 29 of 30 shots.
“When you play good teams, you’re going to get tested and they’re going to get opportunities,” UMD head coach Scott Sandelin said. “It’s how many you give them. He (Hunter Shepard) was there tonight to answer. We got a little lucky. I think they hit the pipe in the third period off a deflection and there were some close calls. I think Parker (Mackay) cleared one out of the crease. As I said, they were getting pucks to the net. They were doing a good job around our net. And that’s what you have to do against good goalies.”
Going into the third period, game tied 0-0 it was a 50/50 game.
“Yeah, it was it was back and forth for sure,” Denver head coach David Carle said. “I thought we did a good job taking back momentum after they had a push. Going into third, I thought that we were in a really good spot and yet giving up that goal early in the third definitely was hard for us but, we a lot of time to come back just weren’t able to do it tonight.”
With the win, the Bulldogs improve to 24-11-2. More importantly, UMD is ranked 3rd in the Pairwise Rankings. With the loss, the Pioneers drop to 21-11-5. Pioneers did nothing to hurt their NCAA chances, they check in at eighth in the Pairwise Rankings.