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UMD’S Quest For A Mens Hockey National Championship Starts Today

Minnesota Duluth's first line of (from left) Justin Fontaine, Mike Connolly and Jack Connolly are a big reason why the Bulldogs' power play was the fifth-most prolific in NCAA Division I. (Clint Austin /

The UMD Bulldogs are just two victories away from becoming national champions.  In a season that was not without its bumps along the way, the Bulldogs are right where they want to be.

Something special has delivered Minnesota Duluth to the 2011 NCAA Frozen Four men’s tournament.

A power play with the most goals in Division I the past three years outshined this season’s statistical leaders in the East Regional two weeks ago. A short-handed goal also was critical as the No. 9-ranked Bulldogs eliminated No. 8 Union College 2-0 and No. 1 Yale University 5-3.

UMD (24-10-6) takes those special-teams weapons into today’s 4 p.m. semifinal against No. 11 Notre Dame (25-13-5) at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center. No. 2 North Dakota (32-8-3) plays No. 5 Michigan (28-10-4) in a 7:30 p.m. semifinal. Both are on ESPN2.

“Everything starts with good communication, and we have a good relationship,” junior left winger Mike Connolly says of UMD’s special teams units. “The focus is on moving the puck quick and fast, and to the front of the net. You get in trouble when you’re stationary.

“Down the stretch of the regular season, our power play didn’t perform the way we wanted. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do better in the playoffs because that’s what teams need. You get some bounces, find some seams and take advantage of chances. Special teams can give you tremendous momentum.”

A Kyle Schmidt power-play goal gave UMD a 1-0 lead after one period against Union College in the semifinals in Bridgeport, Conn., and a Connolly short-handed goal gave UMD a 1-0 lead after one period against Yale University. The Bulldogs are 13-1-1 this season when leading after one period.

UMD trailed in shots on goal in the East Regional by a combined 65-54 and had been 2-3-1 when being outshot. Yet, specials teams helped improve that figure to 4-3-1, along with stellar play by junior goalie Kenny Reiter, the East Regional MVP.

Read the entire story and more via Frozen Four preview: Special delivery by UMD | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota.

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