ST. PAUL, Minn. – Karson Kulman’s final game ever as a University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldog came Saturday night on college hockey's biggest stage -- the NCAA Frozen Four championship -- and he certainly went out in style.
Saturday night, the senior team captain scored once and assisted on UMD's other goal as he and the Bulldogs toppled the University of Notre Dame 2-1 at St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center.
For his efforts, which included helping UMD secure its second national title, Kuhlman was chosen the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.
Just as it had done two nights earlier in a 2-1 semifinal round triumph over Ohio State, the Bulldogs (25-16-3 overall) jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead. Kuhlman struck first, snapping a wrist shot from top of the right faceoff circle over the glove hand of Notre Dame netminder Cale Morris. The goal, which came at the 9:06 mark, was his 13th of the season.
A little over nine minutes later, senior center and former Sioux City Musketeer Jared Thomas, who like Kuhlman collected a goal on Thursday night against the Buckeyes, beat Morris with an odd-angle shot from the extended goal line.
Notre Dame (28-10-2), which was seeking it first NCAA championship, cut the Bulldog lead in half 7:40 into the second half with a power play goal. But that was it for the Fighting Irish as Bulldog sophomore Hunter Shepard slammed the door the rest of the way in what turned out to the 11th straight one-goal NCAA Tournament game for UMD.
"I don't know what it is, we couldn't find that third goal the last three games, but our team did a great job." said Thomas, who joined Kuhlman, Shepard and freshman defenseman Scott Perunovich on the six-member All-Tournament Team.
"There was never a panic or doubt in our locker room,” added Thomas. “If we needed to win the game 2-1, we would win the game 2-1. You saw it in our third period play there. We kind of really shut them down towards the end of the third period. That's just how we like winning games, I guess -- get the lead early and hold on. Anytime you're in a game like this against a team like Notre Dame, you knew they're going to push. And, we just needed to weather the storm a bit and stick to our game plan, which we did, and fortunate it was enough to come away with a win."
UMD outshot the Fighting Irish 35-20 on the night en route to improving its all-time NCAA Frozen Four record to 7-4-0, including a perfect 4-0 mark at the Xcel Energy Center, the site of UMD's other NCAA title conquest in 2011.
"I couldn't be more proud of our team, the way they battled all year and tonight," said UMD head coach Scott Sandelin, who is now 17-6-0 in NCAA postseason play. "Obviously it's a special championship for the program. I was fortunate to be part of the first one but this one is just as special. This never gets old."
Thomas finished the season with 11 goals and 15 assists. Another former Musketeer, forward Avery Peterson, had six goals and five assists.
Brett Larson, the Musketeers’ head coach in the 2011-12 season and 2012-13 seasons, is in his second stint as an assistant coach for the Bulldogs. Larson was on Sandelin’s staff when UMD won the Frozen Four in 2011.