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North Dakota beats U-M, advances to Frozen Four

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Posted at 10:00 PM, Mar 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-26 23:11:21-04
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Rhett Gardner broke a tie with 7:57 left and North Dakota beat Michigan 5-2 on Saturday night in the NCAA Midwest Regional final to advance to the Frozen Four.
   
Gardner deflected Paul LaDue's shot off goalie Steve Racine's glove 3:44 after Michigan tied it for the second time.
   
"There was no panic," North Dakota coach Brad Berry said. "Our guys believed in themselves and that's why it's a special group."
   
The Fighting Hawks (32-6-4) reached the Frozen Four for the third straight year and 22nd time overall. They won the last of their seven titles in 2000.
   
Luke Johnson, Drake Caggiula, Coltyn Sanderson and LaDue -- into an empty net -- also scored goals for North Dakota. Cam Johnson, from Troy, Michigan, made 23 saves for the Fighting Hawks.
   
"It felt nice," Johnson said about besting his home-state squad. "I was excited to play them and have a lot of good buddies on that team. It's always fun playing against your buddies that you grew up with. My best friend growing up from down that street was on that team, so it was pretty neat beating him."
   
JT Compher scored twice for Michigan (25-8-5), and Racine made 40 saves.
   
"You have to give them credit, they're a really good hockey team and they buried their chances when they got them," Compher said. "We made mistakes, and you're going to make mistakes in a hockey game, but we stayed in the game and weathered the storm early. We made a good push to come back. One bounce the other way, and I think we could have had a different outcome. Don't take anything away from them. That's a really good hockey team."
   
Caggiula opened the scoring on a backhander off his own rebound late in the first period. Troy Stecher started the play by breaking up a pass from inside his own blue line and feeding it to Caggiula.
   
Compher tied it at 5:33 of the second period, beating Johnson glove-side from the slot.
   
Johnson put North Dakota back in front with 45 seconds left in the second. He picked up a loose puck after a Michigan turnover and shot it past Racine.
   
Michigan's national-best power play finally got a chance midway through the third period when LaDue was called for holding, and Compher fired a shot from the circle past Johnson to tie it at 8:39 of the third.
   
Gardner broke the tie, and Sanderson doubled the advantage 1:14 later.
   
"It's a disappointing end to the season," Michigan coach Red Berenson said. "North Dakota was the better team tonight. We didn't bring our best game, and it wasn't good enough against a team like that.
   
"We stayed in the game and got into the game as it went on as a tied game in the third period. I thought Racine was outstanding and had to be in order to keep us in the game. We just weren't good enough tonight."
   
In the semifinals Friday, North Dakota beat Northeastern 6-2, and Michigan topped Notre Dame 3-2 in overtime.