On Location: 2022 NCHC Frozen Faceoff
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.