CINCINNATI – Junior forward Connor Gaarder scored 1:28 into the second overtime to give No. 13/13 North Dakota a 2-1 win over No. 6/6 Ferris State Saturday night in the NCAA Midwest Regional Championship game at U.S. Bank Arena as UND clinched a spot in its 20th NCAA Frozen Four in program history. Fourth-seeded North Dakota (25-13-3) becomes the first NCHC team to make the NCAA Frozen Four and will be playing for its eighth national title in program history, while the second-seeded Bulldogs (29-11-3) saw their season come to a close.
Sophomore forward Rocco Grimaldi, who had a hat trick in Friday’s win over Wisconsin, was named MVP of the Midwest Regional, while he was joined by Gaarder and freshman defenseman Paul LaDue on the All-Midwest Region Team from North Dakota.
The game started slowly as neither team found the back of the net in the first period, despite a 12-8 edge in shots on goal for UND. In the second period, freshman forward Luke Johnson rang a shot off the crossbar early in the second stanza, before Cory Kane broke the deadlock when his shot from the slot squeaked between sophomore goaltender Zane Gothberg’s five-hole to put FSU ahead, 1-0, 7:31 into the period. North Dakota answered back just over three minutes later when LaDue fired a blast from the point on the power play that was deflected by junior forward Stephane Pattyn in front of net to knot the game at 1-1.
In the third period, Ferris State took control of the game, putting 12 shots on goal to UND’s two, but Gothberg turned all of them aside, including three on a Bulldog power play. North Dakota had three power play chances in the frame, but managed just one shot with the man advantage. In the first overtime, both sides had quality chances in front of net but again Gothberg was up to the task with 14 more saves, while C.J. Motte stopped all six UND shots in the extra session for FSU. North Dakota wasted little time grabbing the win in the second overtime, however, as junior defenseman Nick Mattson, who assisted on both goals, worked the puck to LaDue, who put the puck on net, where Gaarder poked home the rebound to advance UND to the Frozen Four. LaDue also finished with two helpers on the night.
Gothberg totaled a career-high 44 saves to backstop North Dakota to the win, as the Bulldogs outshot UND, 45-26, on the night. Motte finished with 24 saves in defeat for FSU. UND finished 1-for-6 on the power play while killing all five Ferris State power plays. North Dakota will face the winner of the West Regional in the National Semifinals on Thursday, April 10 in the Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The time will either be 5 or 8:30 p.m. ET and will be televised live on ESPN2.