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Bulldogs back in title game after Frozen Four win over Providence

Justin Richards (19) of Minnesota Duluth celebrates after scoring a second period goal against Providence during the NCAA Frozen Four semifinal game Thursday, April 11, at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo, N.Y. Clint Austin / Forum News Service1 / 2
Vincent Desharnais (2) of Providence and Noah Cates (21) of Minnesota Duluth chase the puck during the NCAA Frozen Four semifinal game Thursday, April 11, at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo, N.Y. Clint Austin / Forum News Service2 / 2

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Minnesota Duluth is heading back to the NCAA championship game for the third consecutive season, beating Providence 4-1 on Thursday, April 11, in the first of two Frozen Four semifinals at KeyBank Center.

The defending national champion Bulldogs will try and become the first team to repeat as NCAA champions since Denver in 2004 and 2005 when they take on Massachusetts at 7 p.m. CT on Saturday in Buffalo.

“It’s incredible, I’ll let it sink in later tonight,” UMD senior captain Parker Mackay said. “We’re very excited right now. Like I said a couple weeks ago, some guys don’t get the opportunity to even make it to the regional level or the Frozen Four, so being in three championship games is going to be huge.”

The Bulldogs’ fourth line -- better known as the ‘Miller Line’ -- went hard to the Friars’ net midway through the third period for the game-winning goal. Sophomore wing Kobe Roth fired a shot that bounced back out, off senior wing Billy Exell and into the Providence net, giving UMD a 2-1 lead.

Sophomore defenseman Dylan Samberg and sophomore center Justin Richards added a pair of empty-net goals in the final minute.

The Bulldogs had to kill a pair of Providence power plays early in the third period after freshman wing Tanner Laderoute was called for tripping and Exell committed a slash, resulting in a 5-on-3 for the Friars that spanned 1:18. UMD killed off both power plays, getting two big saves from junior goaltender Hunter Shepard -- who made a total of 28 saves - during the two-man disadvantage to keep the game tied.

“We didn’t have a strategy, we just tried to roll with it,” UMD junior defenseman Nick Wolff said of the kills, which he added were huge momentum shifts. “It’s all about rolling with it, taking away the lanes and rotation. If you can just stick with the puck carrier and eat as many pucks as possible.”

Wolff said winning faceoffs was also key to killing the 5-on-3, something Friars coach Nate Leaman agreed with.

“The faceoffs were the biggest weakness for us in the game,” said Leaman, whose team lost 22-15 on the dot to UMD. “We were left chasing the puck.”

Richards put the third puck of the evening past Providence goaltender Hayden Hawkey — but only the first that counted — to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead 6:39 into the second period. Richards fired a shot low under Hawkey for his 11th goal of the season.

The Friars tied the game at 1-1 with a power-play goal 11 seconds into a cross-checking minor against junior defenseman Nick Wolff. Providence junior center Josh Wilkins was able to beat UMD goaltender Hunter Shepard after a rebound was slipped back in the centermen’s direction.

The Bulldogs had two goals disallowed in the opening 20 minutes.

Exell put the first puck across the Friars’ goal line 10:15 intp the first national semifinal, but the whistle blew well before the puck went in and video review confirmed the call.

The second disallowed goal was much more controversial.

UMD freshman wing Cole Koepke scored off a rebound at the 16:40 mark of the first period after camping at the top of the crease. It put him in the perfect position to put away the initial shot by sophomore defenseman Mikey Anderson.

The play was originally called a goal on the ice, however, after a six-minute video review by the Atlantic Hockey officiating crew of Chris Ciamaga and Mike Schubert, it was determined Koepke interfered with Hawkey.

The review drew substantial boos from the crowd, not only after the call but as the review dragged on for several minutes.

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