This is the next installment in our On Location series where we live tweet a college game (or games) that we attend in person and then later post an article here on the site. If you missed our first installment, you can read it here.

Teams (seed): Denver Pioneers (1), North Dakota Fighting Hawks (2), Western Michigan Broncos (3), Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs (5)

Where: Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota

When: March 18/19, 2022

National Anthem before the Minnesota Duluth and Denver NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinal game March 18, 2022.
Minnesota Duluth and Denver opened up the 2022 NCHC Frozen Faceoff March 18, 2022.

Denver came into the weekend as the number one seed in the conference tournament and started the weekend against the only team to win an opening-round upset: Minnesota Duluth. It was the first time back at Xcel Energy Center for both teams since a previous Frozen Faceoff tournament March 23, 2019.

The Bulldogs scored first in the opening period. There was no scoring in the middle frame and for the majority of the third period. UMD scored an empty-net goal with 20 seconds left to defeat the top-seed Pioneers 2-0. The Bulldogs were set to play in the conference’s championship game for a fourth time the following night.

A Bulldog shoots the puck on net in the UMD vs Denver 2022 NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinal game.
Early action during the UMD vs Denver NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinal game March 18, 2022.

The two NCHC trophies were on display. The Penrose Cup on the left is awarded to the top team during the regular season. Denver and North Dakota were co-champions this season. The NCHC Tournament Trophy is on the right and was on hand to be presented to the winner on the ice after the championship game March 19, 2022.

Penrose Cup and NCHC Tournament Trophy
Penrose Cup and NCHC Tournament Trophy

The second semifinal game was second seed North Dakota against third seed Western Michigan. The Fighting Hawks were looking to become the first repeat Frozen Faceoff champion in conference history. The Broncos were looking for the program’s first Frozen Faceoff win. This was Western Michigan’s first game at the X since losing an opening round NCAA tournament game to North Dakota March 24, 2012. This was North Dakota’s first game in the venue since a 4-1 victory over UMD in the 2018 Frozen Faceoff consolation game. It’s worth noting the consolation game for this season was cancelled due to the Minnesota Wild hosting a hockey game during the day on Saturday prior to the NCHC championship game.

North Dakota got off to a fast start by scoring first but Western Michigan answered back less than two minutes later. The first period ended 1-1. The Broncos went up 2-1 in the second period and then scored again with less than a minute remaining. The Fighting Hawks answered back by cutting the lead back to one with less than eight seconds remaining in the period. The third period remained scoreless until an empty-net goal from Western Michigan clinched the program’s first Frozen Faceoff win. It would be Western Michigan versus Minnesota Duluth in the title game the following night.

Western Michigan celebrates a second period goal against North Dakota in the 2022 NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinal game.
Western Michigan celebrates a second period goal against North Dakota in the 2022 NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinal game.

There’s an area in the Xcel Energy Center that is dedicated to the Patty Kazmaier and Hobey Baker Memorial Awards. It includes a list of past winners, jerseys, a replica award, and information about the trophies and players they are named after.

Wing of the Xcel Energy Center dedicated to Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award.
Wing of the Xcel Energy Center dedicated to Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award that showcases Aerin Frankel.
Photos of all Hobey Baker Award winners from 1981 to 2021.
Hobey Baker Award winners from 1981 to 2021.
Hobey Baker showcase at the Xcel Energy Center
The Xcel Energy Center’s Hobey Baker showcase was updated with Cole Caufield’s photo and jersey.

The 2022 NCHC championship game took place the evening of Saturday, March 19, 2022. The Western Michigan Broncos were looking for the program’s first NCHC tournament title and were facing two-time winners Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs. Following the blueprint from the first game of the weekend, the Bulldogs jumped on the board first in the opening period. UMD scored in the middle frame to take a 2-0 lead on a power play goal from Casey Gilling. Ryan Fanti continued his hot streak and made some fantastic saves to prevent the Broncos from getting momentum. Wyatt Kaiser’s goal in the third period iced the game.

The UMD Bulldogs won the program’s third Frozen Faceoff title. Noah Cates accepted the trophy at center ice after the game and Ryan Fanti was awarded the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award. He did not allow a goal throughout the last six periods of play. By the end of the tournament Fanti was sitting at an active shutout streak of 145:21 dating back to the St. Cloud State series. With this win, UMD broke the two-way tie with Denver for the lead in number of NCHC tournament championships.

Noah Cates of UMD hoists the 2022 NCHC Tournament Trophy
The UMD Bulldogs celebrate the 2022 NCHC Frozen Faceoff title after defeating Western Michigan March 19, 2022.

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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.

CHH Relevant Rewind Header

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.

CHH Recent Rewind Header

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.