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Thursday, April 5th featured a number of compelling hockey games around the world, but none more exciting than the two NCAA Men's Ice Hockey National Championship Semi-Final games. St. Paul, Minnesota hosted the two games that would determine the competitors for the national title, which will be held on Saturday.
In the first game Thursday night, The University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs squared off against the Ohio State Buckeyes. Minnesota-Duluth, representing the NCHC, are the only team not from the Big Ten left in the tournament. The Bulldogs were in the finals last year, losing to conference rival Denver.
The Ohio State Buckeyes are looking for their first national title. After tying Michigan with the most goals in the first two round, the Buckeyes will hope to outscore their opponents in two more games to capture that elusive championship.
The Bulldogs would get off to fast start. Louie Roehl and Jared Thomas would each score in the opening four minutes, giving the defunct "home" team an early 2-0 lead. Minnesota-Duluth won their one and only national championship in the same building, the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, which is just two hours from their campus.
Ohio State would score one of their own midway through the third period. Tanner Laczynski deflected a shot off a Bulldog past goalie Hunter Shepard to get the Buckeyes on the board at 10:33 of the final frame.
Unfortunately for Ohio State, this would be the only goal they would score Thursday night. The Bulldogs would not score again, but would hold on to the 2-1 win to advance to their second straight Frozen Four Championship Game. Hunter Shepard made 19 saves in the win.
The Michigan Wolverines would take on the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in the second game. The winner will meet Minnesota-Duluth on Saturday for a chance to win a national title.
Notre Dame competed this year for the first time in the Big Ten. After becoming the conference's seventh team, the Fighting Irish dominated the league, winning both the conference regular season title and the playoff championship. This team has its sights on the school's first national championship after such a successful regular season.
It would be the Michigan Wolverines who would jump out to the lead in this game, however. Michigan, who hasn't qualified for a national championship game since the 2011 game against Minnesota-Duluth, came out hungry for a chance at a rematch.
Tony Calderone would score the lone goal of the first period for the Wolverines. That lead would be doubled by Dexter Dancs just 17 seconds into the second period.
Notre Dame would roar back with three straight goals. Captain Jake Evans would pick up two points in the second period. With an assist on Andrew Oglevie's powerplay goal at 2:41 and a goal of his own skating 4-on-4, Evans stands as the leading scorer among players remaining in the tournament.
At 1:35 of the third period, Notre Dame would score again to take its first lead of the game. That lead would last just 13 minutes, as Michigan's Michael Pastujov added his fifth goal of the season to tie the game.
A dramatic third period would finish with an incredible ending. Notre Dame senior Jake Evans was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 7th round in 2014. While his professional future might not be certain, what is certain is Evans will go down as a legend in Notre Dame hockey history with his 13th of the season with just six second remaining in the final period.
With that goal, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish finish off a 4-3 victory over Michigan. This sets up a fantastic final between Notre Dame and Minnesota-Duluth. Check back for a review of the national championship game coming up Saturday at 6:30 pm CT on Saturday. Watch the game on ESPN, but come back to Below the Goal Line for everything need to know about the game.