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Minnesota-Duluth Beats Notre Dame 2-1 to Win 2018 NCAA Hockey Championship

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 8, 2018

Minnesota Duluth players celebrate a goal by center Jared Thomas (22) against Notre Dame in the first period during an NCAA Frozen Four championship college hockey game, Saturday, April 7, 2018,in St. Paul, Minn.. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)
Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

The Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs are national champions for the second time after defeating the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2-1 on Saturday night in the 2018 NCAA national title game at Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Notre Dame came up short for the second year in a row after reaching the Frozen Four, having lost to the Denver Pioneers in the 2017 national semifinals.

Fighting Irish goaltender Cale Morris did his best to get Notre Dame back into the game. He made 33 saves as Minnesota-Duluth outshot its opponent 35-20.

Morris kept the deficit at one goal with an impressive save late in the third period on Bulldogs forward Karson Kuhlman, who was on a breakaway. NCAA Ice Hockey shared a replay of Morris stonewalling Kuhlman:

Ultimately, the Fighting Irish were unable to regularly test Minnesota-Duluth goaltender Hunter Shepard. There's a reason the Bulldogs were tied for sixth in goals allowed per game (2.12), and they put their stellar defense on display Saturday night.

Even after Notre Dame pulled Morris with one minute, 28 minutes left in the game, Minnesota-Duluth allowed just one shot, which was blocked by defenseman Nick Wolff. The Bulldogs secured the victory after winning one final faceoff with 2.1 seconds remaining. ESPN shared their celebrations after the final horn:

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USA Today's Dan Wolken noted fans in Duluth have had a lot to cheer about in 2018:

Given how the last month has unfolded for Notre Dame, nobody will be surprised to see the Fighting Irish delivered another nail-biter in the title game.

During its five-game winning streak dating back to the start of the Big Ten tournament, Notre Dame won three games with goals in the third period, and the other two ended in overtime. The Fighting Irish have been no strangers to drama over the last month.

Perhaps it's no coincidence Minnesota-Duluth jumped on Notre Dame early and built a two-goal lead after the first period. Kuhlman opened the scoring 9:06 into the opening period and assisted on Jared Thomas' goal at the 18:39 mark to make it a 2-0 game.

A pair of mistakes by the Fighting Irish helped Thomas double the Bulldogs' advantage. Defenseman Andrew Peeke lost possession in a dangerous area, and Morris didn't do enough to protect his near post:

Andrew Oglevie halved the deficit 7:40 into the second period. Notre Dame capitalized on a man advantage as Bulldogs defenseman Scott Perunovich was serving a two-minute penalty for interference. Oglevie's goal also came moments after Morris saved a shot by Mikey Anderson.

Although the junior forward provided the Fighting Irish with some much-needed momentum, the impact quickly faded as Minnesota-Duluth's defensive resolve returned.

This is the third straight game in which the Bulldogs won by a score of 2-1.

After surrendering seven goals in two Frozen Faceoff games, Minnesota-Duluth gave up five combined goals in four games over the NCAA regional and Frozen Four. Defense was the Bulldogs' hallmark this season, and it was the decisive factor in the national championship.

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