UMD will be making itstheir first appearance in the semi-finals of the MCLA National Tournament in program history, after two lights-out performances against College of Idaho, and Kennesaw State.
Salt Lake City is nearly a 24-hour drive from the shore of Lake Superior, but this spot between the mountains and Great Salt Lake has been feeling a lot like home for the Bulldogs. They have propelled themselves to the final four of the national tournament after beating the #14 seed College of Idaho 22-8 in the first round and the #6 seed Kennesaw State 16-4 in the quarterfinals. This is the first time the Bulldogs have ever made it past the second round in the national tournament.
UMD’s offense has made a big impact, and is putting the ball in the net again like they were earlier in the season. Scott McNamara has been a big part of this success, scoring eight goals between the two games. The Bulldogs man-up unit has also begun to click, finding the gaps in other teams’ defensive units and having skilled players like Ryan Larson or Ethan Peterson finish the job.
The defense has held their own as well with captain Nick Timmons taking care of his matchups, and moving the ball upfield. Branton Fleischman has also been recognized for his countless forced turnovers and ground balls in both games.
“All season we have been learning from our mistakes and I think that is pretty clear when you look at us now compared to in February,” said coach Ben Blaeser on the steps the Bulldogs defensive unit has taken this season.
UMD will play conference rival North Dakota State in the semi-final game at 1:45 PM MST back at the Salt Lake City RAC – the sports complex on the Jordan River where the tournament is being played. The Bison have been a tough opponent for the Bulldogs this season, with UMD losing 11-5 early in the season, and 12-9 recently in the UMLC tournament. NDSU’s 10 man ride has made it difficult for UMD to maintain quality control of the ball.
The Bulldogs are feeling strong and confident going into the game nonetheless. They are aware of where they need to focus in order to be successful, and know how to prevent making the same mistakes they made in the first two contests. They are also at the top of their game.
“Everything is coming together at the right time, and were playing the best we have all season,.” coach Alex McNamara said. If one thing is for certain, the Bulldogs do not plan on leaving their new home in Salt Lake City early.