Irish, Sioux reach Frozen Four

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Notre Dame backed into the NCAA hockey tournament on a two-game losing streak, a disappointed group of mostly underclassmen who were just one more loss away from the end of the season.

The Fighting Irish weren't ready for that. Now they're two wins away from a national championship.

Notre Dame advanced to the Frozen Four for just the second time in school history with a 2-1 victory over New Hampshire on Sunday night.

"We recognized that we didn't want our season to end. I think this weekend was a great example of how we've turned it around," said Billy Maday, whose goal with 5 seconds left in the second period gave the Irish a 2-0 lead and deflated a very pro-New Hampshire crowd.

"I think we played with a lot of speed and a lot of poise. I think we were physical and did the things that we needed to."

Stephen Johns also scored for the Irish, Riley Sheahan assisted on both goals and Mike Johnson made 37 saves.

Notre Dame (25-13-5) advanced to the Frozen Four for the first time since 2008. The young Irish, who have 12 freshman on the roster, will play Minnesota-Duluth in the national semifinals on April 7 in St. Paul, Minn.

"For this group to accomplish what they have this year with so many young kids is incredible," coach Jeff Jackson said.

The Irish had to rally from a pair of two-goal deficits in a 4-3 overtime win over Merrimack on Saturday in the Northeast Regional opening round. They faced the Wildcats (22-11-6), who were playing just 35 miles from home and had nearly all of the 5,906 fans behind them.

But they couldn't solve Johnson, who had a shutout going until Mike Sislo scored for New Hampshire with 6:23 left to play.

"The forwards and 'D' did a great job in front of me. They really got sticks in passing lanes, deflected pucks and blocked them as well," Johnson said. "I have to credit them. They were unbelievable tonight."

Notre Dame's last trip to the Frozen Four ended with a loss to Boston College in the title game. Can this young group get that far again? They don't seem to rattle easily, even when the Wildcats were pressuring early.

"We recognize there's a lot of little plays on the ice. We can't get over excited or down no matter what happens. Just stay even-keeled," Maday said. "I think the goals were a product of not getting too low after some great chances by them."

Matt Di Girolamo made 36 saves for New Hampshire.

New Hampshire came out strong, outshooting Notre Dame 8-1, but the Irish broke through first on Johns' slap shot from the blue line with 12:34 left in the first period. It was only the second shot on goal for the Irish, who spent most of the early part of the period in their own end trying to stop the Wildcats.

Johnson withstood the rush.

"He was great all weekend," Sislo said. "He made it tough getting shots on net and not giving up rebounds."

The Irish got a lift just before the second intermission on Maday's goal. The Wildcats had just missed a great opportunity when Johnson made a glove save on a wrist shot by John Henrion after a drop pass from Damon Kipp with 21 seconds left.

Notre Dame won the faceoff and quickly got it to the other end, where the puck slid to Maday, who had a goal and an assist against Merrimack, in the slot and he lifted a backhander over Di Girolamo.

Sislo cut it to 2-1 with 6:23 left in the game. Matt Campanale created the play when he skated behind the Notre Dame net and slipped a pass to Sislo in the slot. The goal revived the crowd briefly, but a penalty by New Hampshire with 1:44 left forced the Wildcats to play short-handed as they tried to complete the comeback.

"We just couldn't pull it off," New Hampshire coach Dick Umile said. "The second goal is what hurt us. We just couldn't score and tie the game."

North Dakota 6, Denver 1

Aaron Dell made 26 saves and top-ranked North Dakota routed Denver in the NCAA Midwest final to advance to the Frozen Four.

North Dakota (32-8-3) will face Michigan on April 7 in the semifinals in St. Paul, Minn. Michigan advanced Saturday night with a 2-1 victory over Colorado College in the West final in St. Louis.

"We said it yesterday, we need to play our best game today against Denver and I'll be honest with you, I think we did that," Sioux coach Dave Hakstol said. "I think this was a complete hockey game by our team."

The teams split a pair of regular-season meetings and the Sioux won 3-2 in double overtime last week in the Western Conference Hockey Association tournament final.

Evan Trupp gave North Dakota, a 6-0 winner over RPI on Saturday, a 2-1 lead at 7:06 of the second period, and Brett Hextall made it 3-1 on a power play with 53 seconds left in the period.

"They're such a good team, especially offensively. They're hard to contain. They move around a lot, they do a lot of different things and they're competitive on pucks," Hextall said. "They're difficult to play against and to get those goals to give us some breathing room, that was huge for us. It took some of the tension off and we were able just to stick with our game plan."

Mario Lamoureux, Brock Nelson, Brad Malone and Jake Marto also scored for North Dakota, seeking its eighth national title and first since 2000.

Jason Zucker scored for Denver (25-12-5). On Saturday night, Zucker scored in the second overtime in the Pioneers' 3-2 victory over Western Michigan.

That was the only goal Dell allowed in two regional games. He was selected the regional's Most Outstanding Player, finishing with 46 saves on 47 shots.