The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have been on a hire wire act for the past month in which fans have needed their cardiologist nearby due to the breathtaking action and thrilling end of game wins that have put them in the national championship match. The Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs have also had their share of nail biters winning three consecutive games by one goal en route to a shot at the national title against Notre Dame. For Notre Dame a win against Minnesota Duluth would mean their first ever men’s hockey national championship.
The NCAA National Championship is on the line Saturday, April 7, 2018, at 7:30 p.m. ET at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. The game will be televised live on ESPN.
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Both teams should be well rested having played on Thursday before a day off on Friday. As an added bonus both teams did not have to go through any overtime periods in their wins on Thursday. Championship games are often defense oriented. Undertakers will be shopping this one as two of the best goaltenders in the country will be between the pipes. Minnesota Duluth scored a tight 2-1 win in the semifinal against Ohio State. Notre Dame scored a thrilling 4-3 win in the final seconds for their semifinal win against Michigan.
Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs
The Bulldogs enter this national championship game with a record of 24-16-3. The have the hot hand with 10 wins in their last 13 games. In the NCAA Tournament they opened with a 3-2 overtime win over Minnesota State. That was followed by a 2-1 nail biter over Air Force which put them into the Frozen Four. In Thursday’s semifinal, Minnesota Duluth jumped to a 2-0 lead on Ohio State in the first period and then held on the rest of the way. Jared Thomas’ 10th goal of the season was the difference maker. Goaltender Hunter Shepard stopped 19 shots for the win. Freshman defenseman Scott Perunovich is the man to watch for the Bulldogs. He led the team in scoring with 11 goals and 25 assists on the season. Minnesota Duluth finished a distant third place in the NCHC but has clicked at the perfect time.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The Fighting Irish enter the national championship game with a record of 28-9-2. They were the champions of the Big Ten for both regular season and conference tournament. In the NCAA Tournament they had quite a scare in the first round with a 4-3 overtime win over Michigan Tech. That was followed by an air tight 2-1 win over Providence to earn a berth in the Frozen Four. Thursday night saw Jake Evans become a hero for the ages with his 13th goal of the season at the 19:54 mark to get the win over Michigan. Evans is a senior forward that leads the Fighting Irish in scoring with 13 goals and 32 assists.
Hunter Shepard was in goal for 40 of the 43 games for Minnesota Duluth this season and has posted a stellar save percentage of .924 with a 1.93 goals against average and eight shutouts. He has really clamped down in NCAA Tournament play with just four goals allowed in three games.
Goaltender Cale Morris played in 36 of Notre Dame’s 39 games this season and has a sparkling .944 save percentage with four shutouts and a 1.94 goals against average. He has allowed seven goals in three NCAA Tournament games however.
Free Frozen Four Picks
Notre Dame has had several close calls to get to the final game. Minnesota Duluth was impressive in how they shut down Ohio State in the semifinal. The Bulldogs are riding a lot of momentum. Shepard has been near impenetrable in goal. Expect the Luck of the Irish to run out in this one.
Frozen Four Odds: Minnesota Duluth 2, Notre Dame 1
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