It'll be Minnesota-Duluth against Denver for all the college hockey marbles on Saturday night, in what will be an all-National Collegiate Hockey Conference affair.
Alex Iafallo deflected home a pass with 26.6 seconds remaining in regulation to lift NCHC champion UMD to a 2-1 victory over ECAC champion Harvard in the first 2017 NCAA Frozen Four semifinal on Thursday at the United Center in Chicago. Harvard's Tyler Moy (power-play goal) and UMD's Joey Anderson exchanged first-period tallies just over three minutes apart, and the score then remained unchanged until Iafallo's heroics.
Harvard's Luke Esposito hit the crossbar in the dying seconds of the third period after the Crimson (28-6-2 overall) had pulled goaltender Merrick Madsen (31 saves) for an extra attacker. Hunter Miska finished with 39 stops for UMD (28-6-7), which was outshot, 40-38. The Bulldogs advanced to their first NCAA title game since 2011, when they beat Michigan in overtime to claim the program's first-ever national championship.
In the nightcap, top-seeded Denver obliterated host Notre Dame by a 6-1 count to return to the national title contest for the first time since 2005. Emil Romig and Henrik Borgstrom staked the Pioneers to a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes, before Tariq Hammond, Dylan Gambrell and Evan Ritt made it 5-0 after 40 minutes.
Cam Morrison broke the shutout for the Fighting Irish in the third period, before Gambrell closed out the scoring. Tanner Jaillet made 16 saves for Denver (32-7-4), while Cal Petersen recorded 36 stops for Notre Dame (23-12-5), which was outshot, 42-17, in its Hockey East Association swan song. The Irish will join the Big Ten Hockey Conference next season.
Saturday's NCAA championship game, which will conclude the 2016-17 college hockey campaign at all levels, will be televised live on ESPN beginning at 8 p.m. ET. Denver and UMD split a pair of NCHC league games during the regular season.