The second semifinal game of the 2021 Frozen Four will look familiar to hockey fans. When Massachusetts and Minnesota Duluth drop the puck Thursday night, they’ll be playing against one another for the first time since the most recent championship game in 2019. In that game, UMD blanked UMass 3-0 to earn back-to-back titles. Since there wasn’t a Frozen Four last year, UMD is looking to three-peat while UMass is looking to avenge their loss. In the accompanying photo, Hunter Shepard sprawls out to block a shot from Anthony Del Gaizo to help preserve his seventh shutout of the 2018-19 season. Shepard finished his NCAA career undefeated in the NCAA tournament at 8-0. The upcoming game on Thursday will mark the fourth Frozen Four in a row for UMD and the second in a row for UMass. UMD is looking to become the first three-peat champion since Michigan did so in 1951-53. However, the roles are reversed for this meeting as UMass is the higher seed instead of UMD. If the Bulldogs win, they’ll head back to the championship game looking for the program’s fourth title. If the Minutemen advance, they’ll be looking to win their first championship trophy.
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A little over 50 years ago in St. Cloud, Minnesota, the Huskies hosted the hockey team from Mankato. The southern Minnesota team we currently know as the Minnesota State Mavericks were known as the Mankato State University Indians when this game occurred. St. Cloud State games at that time were played outdoors on campus. This January 1971 game took place towards the end of the outdoor game era in St. Cloud as they moved indoors to the Municipal Athletic Complex in the early 1970s. The two teams split the series in St. Cloud during the second-to-last weekend in January that year. The accompanying photo was taken at one point during these two games. In it, Paul Oberstar skates with the puck for the Huskies as the two teams look on in front of a snowy embankment. These two programs faced each other four times in a row at this point in the 1970-71 schedule with Mankato winning three. This game took place two years prior to the designation of Divisions within the NCAA. However, both of these teams at the time were effectively Division II-equivalent programs. St. Cloud State made the leap to Division I in 1987 and Minnesota State followed suit in 1996. St. Cloud State and Minnesota State were WCHA foes for 14 seasons before conference realignment in 2013. Up until now, they have never faced one another within the NCAA Division I National Tournament. That streak will end Thursday as they face off against each other in the first semifinal game of the 2021 Frozen Four. The Huskies and Mavericks are both looking for their first Division I men’s hockey championship.
Image courtesy of the St. Cloud State University Archives.
As the de facto home team in the 2011 Frozen Four, Minnesota Duluth made itself at home in St. Paul. In what is currently the most recent championship game decided in overtime, UMD won its first national title when Kyle Schmidt scored 3:22 into overtime. The Bulldogs had been less than three minutes away from winning it in regulation but Jeff Rohrkemper tied the game at 2 for Michigan. The only #1 seed that made to the Frozen Four that year was North Dakota. Both UMD and Notre Dame were 3 seeds and Michigan a 2 seed. The Wolverines shocked the crowd in the semifinals when they blanked North Dakota 2-0. UMD defeated the Fighting Irish 4-3 to stamp their ticket to the championship game. This was the first of three trophies UMD won in the 2010s. The Bulldogs’ second championship also took place at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul seven years later in 2018. For the first time since this overtime thriller in 2011, Minnesota Duluth and Michigan will meet Friday afternoon in Fargo. The winner of this 2021 opening round game will face the winner of North Dakota and American International.
Two years ago on March 23, 2019, Minnesota Duluth outlasted St. Cloud State in two overtimes to become 2019 Frozen Faceoff Champions. The game set the record for the longest game in Frozen Faceoff history falling just short of the overall NCHC record for longest game played within the conference. Billy Exell tied the game 2-2 for UMD on a short handed goal with under five minutes remaining in the third period. After a scoreless extra session, Nick Swaney capped off a 2-on-1 breakaway in the second overtime period to give the Bulldogs their second Frozen Faceoff championship in three years. At the time of the game, the Huskies were ranked #1 in the country and favored to beat the #4 ranked Bulldogs. Minnesota Duluth carried over their postseason win streak to the NCAA tournament and ultimately captured the program’s first back-to-back national championship after defeating UMass in the title game.
Intrastate rivals Denver and Colorado College are shown here at the old University of Denver Arena in the 1950s. The two teams first met on the ice in 1950 during Denver’s inaugural year of fielding a team. In the game featured in this photo, Denver wore white sweaters while Colorado College wore gold. In 1993, the Pioneers and Tigers established a Gold Pan trophy to be awarded every season to the team that wins the most head-to-head regular season games between the two teams. The season series this year is currently split 1-1. However, the chase for the Gold Pan will need to wait a little longer because the series that was supposed to happen over the weekend has been postponed due to COVID. The two teams are slated to play six regular season games this year instead of the typical four due to an all-conference schedule.
Photo Credit: Digital Collections at DU