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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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.