Bulldogs face familiar face in Denver in Frozen Faceoff semi-final tomorrow night

 UMD hits the Xcel ice for practice before taking on Denver. Photo by Austin Rush

UMD hits the Xcel ice for practice before taking on Denver. Photo by Austin Rush

After blanking Western Michigan University twice last weekend in the opening round of the National Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs, the No. 8 University of Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey team (21-14-3) is back in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff.

This is the Bulldogs third consecutive trip the Frozen Faceoff. UMD enters as a 3 seed and face an all too familiar opponent in the No. 4 Denver University Pioneers (20-9-8).

Tomorrow night’s matchup at the Xcel Energy Center marks the fifth time these two teams will have met this season. Denver holds the upper hand as they have knocked off the Bulldogs in all four previous games. UMD has been bested by the Pioneers in 11 of their last 13 attempts, eight of which have been one goal games.

After Denver’s sweep over UMD at the beginning of February, UMD is 7-1-0 since and have outscored opponents 33-6. Five of those triumphs came in shutout out fashion as sophomore goaltender Hunter Shepard has been lights out for the Bulldogs all season long.

Shepard has posted a 21-12-1 record in his 2017-18 campaign with a .927 save percent and a 1.92 goals against average, not to mention his program record eight shutouts.

UMD has found previous success at the Xcel Energy Center winning its only National Championship at the downtown St. Paul venue as well as last years final North Star College Cup championship. Having been at the bottom of the NCHC standings at the beginning of the year, the Bulldogs have battled back to make yet another appearance at the Frozen Faceoff.

“For me it means we’re still playing and that’s exciting,” said UMD head coach Scott Sandelin. “This is the time of the year where some teams aren’t. Obviously for our program we’ve had some really good memories here and hopefully we can make another good memory out of this.”

The Bulldogs NCHC Frozen Faceoff title defense kicks off at 7:38 p.m. tomorrow night.

SportsAustin Rush