April 7, 2017 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Frozen Four Friday Notebook

by Christopher Boulay/CHN Writer (@chrismboulay)

CHICAGO — Minnesota-Duluth and Harvard were consistently two of the top teams in college hockey this season. On Thursday night at the Frozen Four semifinal at the United Center, they put on a show.

Duluth senior Alex Iafallo deflected a puck through Harvard goaltender Merrick Madsen’s legs with 26.6 seconds left to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead. The goal came from a Harvard defensive lapse, as the Crimson pushed to the boards simultaneously, allowing Joey Anderson to find Willie Raskob open on the other side of the zone. Raskob’s pass went right to Iafallo, who put it in.

“Definitely nerve wracking but it was a good nerve wracking,” Iafallo said. “I feel like it was an emotional game, but at the same time, I had a gut feeling that we were going to pull it out there at the end.”

Harvard had opportunities as the clock ran down. Senior Alex Kerfoot took two shots on Duluth goaltender Hunter Miska in quick succession. The puck squirted out to the high slot where Luke Esposito caught it and launched it back at the net. The puck rang off the crossbar and was pushed out of the zone, ending the game.

There was some controversy approximately five minutes into the third period. John Marino’s shot was followed into the net by Tyler Moy, but the Harvard goal was waved off immediately. After a review, the referees determined the call stood. The reason behind it was that the review system did not have audio on the goal, so there was no way to determine when the whistle blew.

“It looked like the puck was in before he was able to blow the whistle,” Harvard coach Ted Donato said. “They went and looked at it. The explanation I was given was that there was no audio on the replay. He thought the goalie at one point had it underneath his glove, and in his mind that's when the play was over.”

Moy opened the scoring for Harvard, putting a power play opportunity in with five minutes left in the first period. Duluth tied it with about 90 seconds left in the opening frame on a goal by Joey Anderson.

Back to the Final

UMD coach Scott Sandelin has been here before. This is his seventh appearance in the NCAA tournament and his third trip to the Frozen Four.

“I've had the disappointment of losing on a Thursday in '04 and having to turn around and catch multiple flights home and you never really experience the whole thing. And obviously in '11 we stayed and won.”

His past experiences aided in managing expectations for his guys, but whatever happens, he’s happy with the team’s performance this season.

“It's a great experience for those guys, for everybody, fans included, to be able to stay and play for a national championship,” Sandelin said. “Regardless of how, if we would have lost tonight, I would still be extremely proud of our guys. I'm obviously very proud of our team right now. And hopefully, we can take one more step.

Denver runs over Notre Dame

The Irish didn’t have luck on their side in the second semifinal of the night. Two goals in the first period from Denver — the first from Emil Romig and the second from Henrik Borgstrom — put the team in the driver’s seat early.

They wouldn’t look back, rolling to a 6-1 victory and advancing to the national championship game for the eighth time.

“I don't know what to say,” Denver coach Jim Montgomery said. “I'm amazed at the effort our team produced in a big-time moment against a really good college hockey team in Notre Dame.”

Denver’s win was lopsided. The Pioneers led in shots 42-17, and there wasn’t a point where Notre Dame looked like they would get back in it. Cam Morrison scored a power play goal halfway through the third to make it 5-1, but there wasn’t any doubt Denver had it in the bag.

“I just didn't think we played as well as we're capable of playing,” Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said. “I could take that and put that on me, but it's also about learning and growing and experiences and maybe we can be that team a year from now.”

“(Denver was) here last year,” Jackson said. “They were not happy about losing, and they came back. And that's why I say they seem like they're on a mission right now.”

Gambrell gets two goals

Pioneers sophomore Dylan Gambrell had an impressive evening, getting two goals in the victory. Both goals were assisted by Troy Terry and Tariq Hammond.

“I think we have to give a lot of credit to our forwards,” Denver captain Will Butcher said. “I think our forechecker dominated and ate them up. Whenever we have a good forecheck going, we seem to get the puck back a lot more. It's great when we get the puck back because we're a puck-possession team. When we get that more, we get that early jump.”

Gambrell has 13 goals and 28 assists for the Pioneers this season, and is third in scoring on the team.

Second-Period Barrage

Denver exploded in a 4:11 span during the second period. Hammond’s third goal of the season and Evan Ritt’s second of the year bookended Gambrell’s first goal.

“We're playing well,” Montgomery said. “I mean, you know, there's no doubt about it. But we've had some long stretches of playing well before. So I think it's just we get in a rhythm and we start to really believe in what we're about.”

Quote Book

Harvard coach Ted Donato on what he told the players after the loss…

“There’s so much emotion, so many feelings and respect and gratitude, that it’s really tough to capture in words how special this group is. That will be something I’ll sit and talk at another time with the team and the individuals. What they accomplished and what they mean to the program and to me personally, I couldn’t capture in words five minutes after the game.”

Harvard senior Tyler Moy on the team’s run…

“I couldn’t be prouder of this group of guys. We’ve talked about it all season. What we’re doing and what we’re playing for is a lot bigger than ourselves. We talked about it before the game. This was an opportunity for us, but also for every guy who came through this program. Obviously, with the last two years, we made it to the NCAA tournament, but didn’t (win). That was for those guys, too. They helped create that culture that we really founded ourselves upon.”

UMD senior defenseman Willie Raskob on teammate Carson Soucy, who returned from injury Thursday…

“Obviously, (freshman defenseman) Jarod Hilderman did an amazing job when he stepped in, but to be able to roll six D and keep a flow in the game and match their liens was a lot easier. When you’re playing with one guy you can keep that consistency all night, it was huge to be able to have him back. I’m glad he’s in a Bulldog sweater again.”

Alex Iafallo on his goal...

“Either way, I knew we were going to win it. We’ve been resilient all year, like I said earlier, and things like that I feel like we’re always going to prevail and everyone’s going give it their all to win it.”

Denver senior forward Emil Romig on his time at Denver...

“It's crazy. I can't say anything else. I lucked out with coming here and getting an opportunity here. I've enjoyed my four years. It's been unbelievable. I learned a lot. I think I grew a lot as a person. It's bittersweet that it comes to an end right now, but hopefully we can go out on top.”

ND junior forward Anders Bjork on how he played…

“I don’t think I played my best game at all, but I don’t think our team played their best game. It was a tough one. I think we were working hard, but were just caught up in the moment.”

Montgomery on having Borgstrom back in the lineup against UMD after missing him in the December matchup…

“Anytime you can inject one of the most talented offensive players in college hockey into a lineup that the team hasn't seen, you can watch film on them. But when you get on the ice, it's a different world, especially for goaltenders. The first time they can see him shoot a puck, they can look at it on film, but the puck gets on you real quick. If you're not used to it, it's by you.”

Denver sophomore Colin Staub on decommitting from Air Force to playing in the title game…

“It means everything to me. Back before I was committed to Denver, in that period between when I kind of had to decommit from Air Force before I committed to Denver, I would never have imagined I would be playing in the national championship game two years later. And it means the world to be here and to be part of this team right now.”

Willie Raskob on managing nerves before the national title game...

“I think for us it's just we're in the same spot as them. Obviously, this is our first time playing in a game this big, too. If you look back at our season, I think it's an accumulation of everything we've been through. We've been through overtimes that could end the season, one-goal games and been put through the ringer all season. And you have to rely on those situations.”

“Obviously, the first couple of shifts you'll be jacked up, but, after that, get into our game, play our 60 minutes and hope for the best.”

Sandelin on his team having fun…

“You know, well, I've told my wife a couple times, ‘I don't know if I've ever figured this group out all year.’ And she just told me, ‘don't worry, they're doing fine.’ So sometimes it happens. But '11 was a little bit — we had a team that way, some guys were serious, some guys were — but I think it's really important when you get to these points of the year to really enjoy it.”

“And I said it last night, and I talked to our guys about it before we got here. It's great to get there. But to experience the whole thing, you've got to win that Thursday game. And you know what? They did, so they get to experience that and they get to play in the last game of the year. And there's nothing better than that.”

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