So just who is this Minnesota Duluth team that ninth ranked Notre Dame (25-13-5) will be facing at the Frozen Four, April 7, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.?
The Bulldogs are ranked 11th by USCHO.com and 12th by USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine and come in with a 24-10-6 record.
Here are a few questions and answers as Notre Dame gets ready to play in its second Frozen Four in four seasons and second overall in the 43-year history of the program.
When is the game? Will it be on TV?
The game is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. (EDT) Thursday, April 7, and will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com. No. 6 Michigan faces No. 1 North Dakota in the late semifinal at 8:30 p.m. EDT, also on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com.
Who did the Bulldogs beat to reach the Frozen Four?
Minnesota Duluth hardly took the easy route. It beat No. 8 Union on Friday, 2-0, then came back and beat No. 3 Yale, 5-3, at the NCAA East Regional final before a (decidedly pro-Yale) crowd of 7,816 at Bridgeport, Conn.
In that game Mike Connolly scored a short-handed goal and had three assists and goalie Kenny Reiter made 30 saves. Minnesota Duluth scored four goals in the second period and three power play goals in the win.
Who are some of the key personnel for the Bulldogs?
You can’t go wrong with the name Connolly. Center Jack and wing Mike are both juniors, but are not related (although Jack has a brother, Chris, who plays for Boston University).
Jack Connolly leads the team in scoring with 58 points, including 17 goals. Mike Connolly leads the team in goals, with 27 (53 points) and senior wing Justin Fontaine is the No. 2 scorer with 55 points, including 22 goals.
Reiter, a junior, comes in with a 2.29 goals against average and a 14-7-5 record.
Who is their coach?
Scott Sandelin is in his 11th season at Minnesota Duluth and comes into the Frozen Four with a 191-200-52 record.
How far is Minnesota Duluth from the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.?
Approximately 150 miles. That should not bother Notre Dame though, as the Irish just beat New Hampshire 2-1 on its home ice, the Verizon Wireless Arena Sunday in Manchester, N.H. to reach the Frozen Four.
But the Bulldogs are clearly happy about playing so close to home.
“It’s not often you get an opportunity like that to have the whole state behind you,” Mike Connolly said in an Associated Press story. “So we’re definitely excited.”
Have the Bulldogs played at the Xcel Energy Center this season?
Yes, in the Western Conference Hockey Association tourney, losing to Bemidji State, 3-2, in overtime on March 17.
What happened to the other Central Collegiate Hockey Association teams in the NCAA field?
Michigan, which beat the Irish for third place in Detroit and edged them for first place in the regular season, beat Colorado College, 2-1, Saturday in St. Louis, and has now won 11 of its last 12 games. Michigan beat Nebraska-Omaha 3-2 in overtime Friday.
The Wolverines face North Dakota, another team the Irish have faced this year. The Irish tied the Fighting Sioux and lost to them in November. Michigan and Notre Dame split two games in the regular season at Michigan in November.
Two CCHA teams lost first-round NCAA games. No. 10 Western Michigan lost in two overtimes, 3-2, to Denver Friday in the Midwest Regional in Green Bay. No. 4 Miami, which won the CCHA tourney, was defeated 3-1 by New Hampshire, Friday, in the Northeast Regional.
Staff writer Jim Meenan: