Minnesota-Duluth wins Frozen Four semifinal at United Center
In the first game of the NCAA men's hockey championship doubleheader, dubbed the Frozen Four, Minnesota-Duluth got a late go-ahead goal Thursday night to beat Harvard 2-1 at the United Center.
It was a physical affair tied 1-1 since the first period until Minnesota-Duluth senior forward Alex Iafallo scored the game-winning goal through the five-hole with 27 seconds left.
"Honestly, I just shoveled it in. We do it in practice all the time," Iafallo told reporters at a postgame press conference. "I just kind of thought just get to it the net, and (senior defenseman Willie) Raskob made a good pass ... Worked out well."
Joey Anderson, who first got the Bulldogs on the board with a shot from the high slot after a faceoff win -- along with winning a puck battle on the board to set up the game-winning goal -- echoed Iafallo's sentiments.
"I was kind of below the pile at the blue line, and I was hoping that we'd get a keep, and they happened to make a couple of keeps and it came to me and I just kind of held it for a second and saw Al passing through and saw Willie screening on the weak side, just threw a little pass over to him, and he did the rest from there," Anderson said.
As time expired, the Crimson tried to score the equalizer by firing off two shots that hit goal pipes. Harvard senior forward Tyler Moy got the Crimson on the board in the first period with a power play goal. He was assisted by center Alexander Kerfoot and defenseman Adam Fox.
Kerfoot, who was on the verge of tears after the game, said he was extremely proud of how the Crimson played in a tight game throughout.
"It's incredible to be a part of this group. ... With who the team's got right now and the direction the program's going, everything's looking up for our group," Kerfoot said.
Minnesota-Duluth coach Scott Sandelin credited his team for staying vigilant through a close game.
"Again, we've got our experience. We've got our senior group. They've been through, they've won a lot of games, they've been in some big games," he said. "Obviously we play in a very difficult league. So every weekend you go in thinking those are the types of games you're going to be in. And very seldom are there blowouts. And it can change from one night to the next."
Harvard thought they had the go-ahead goal with 14:19 to go in the third period, but it was waved off after a scrum in front of the net.
Minnesota-Duluth goaltender Hunter Miska had 39 saves, while his counterpart, Harvard's Merrick Madsen, stopped 36 shots.
Harvard ended its season with a record of 28-6-2. The 28 wins are tied for the second-most in program history, dating back to 1898.
"Well, it's very difficult to describe," Harvard coach Ted Danato said. "The emotions, the love in the locker room, and this was such a special group. Up and down the lineup, you know, guys even that weren't in uniform tonight. In general, you know, this senior group was just incredible from a leadership standpoint and from a character standpoint."
Minnesota-Duluth (29-5-2; 16-4-2 Eastern College Athletic Conference) advances to the championship game, the third in program's history, on Saturday to face the winner of Thursday's late game between Notre Dame and Denver.
Notes: Thursday's game marks the third time in the last four years that a national semifinal game-winning goal was scored within the last minute of regulation. Blackhawks forward Nick Schmaltz (North Dakota) scored with 56 seconds left in the game against Denver in last year. ... Minnesota-Duluth forward Alex Iafallo on netting the game-winning goal on the Blackhawks' home ice: "It was really cool, watching NHL games it's a dream come true, especially playing Saturday, it's going to be awesome. A lot of Bulldog fans out there. We owe it to those guys." .. The Blackhawks have two of recent draft picks competing in the Frozen Four. Notre Dame defenseman Dennis Gilbert (third round, 91st overall, 2015) and Denver defenseman Blake Hillman was a 2016 Draft selection (sixth round, 173rd overall). ... Seven players competing in the tournament are from Illinois: Notre Dame's Tory Dello (Crystal Lake), Jack Jenkins (Lake Bluff) and Bobby Nardella (Rosemont; son of former Chicago Wolves defenseman Bob Nardella ); Harvard's Adam Baughman (Chicago) and Michael Floodstrand (Hinsdale); and Denver's Erich Fear (Winnetka) and Greg Ogard (Wilmette).