BUFFALO, NY — Bulldogs back-to-back National Champions!
Parker Mackay broke the ice on the power play just 3:51 into the game and Mikey Anderson doubled it 15:48 into the second period before Jackson Cates sealed it with 2:42 remaining in the third as the second-ranked University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs defeated No. 4 Massachusetts, 3-0, in the final of the NCAA Ice Hockey Frozen Four National Championships on April 13 at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, N.Y.
Hunter Shepard was a stone cold brick wall in between the pipes finishing with 18 saves while Minnesota-Duluth (29-11-2) played some stifling defense in front of him to successfully defend its 2018 National Title. The triumph marked the Bulldogs’ third NCAA Frozen Four National Championship (2011, 2018, 2019) in program history.
“It’s incredible, obviously, you can’t write it any better than that,” Mackay, a senior who finishes his collegiate career with back-to-back NCAA titles, said. “So fortunate to make Regionals all four years let alone three Frozen Fours and winning two National Championships — so happy to do it with some incredible friends in there.”
“I’ve been preparing for every game the same way since I was about 14-years old so I don’t think I want to change anything at this point,” Shepard said with his trademark dry humor that drew a laugh from the media post-game. “Anybody can beat anybody on any night but you’re battled-tested when you get to the end of the year. Putting together the seasons we’ve had the past couple of years is a testament to the coaching staff and players.”
Blessed with the best winning percentage, all-time, in the NCAA Tournament history with a .684 mark entering the tournament final, Minnesota-Duluth seemed destined for greatness despite Massachussetts’ overtime heroics well past midnight in the semifinal Friday morning. Boasting an incredible 22-2 when drawing first blood in a game this season, the Bulldogs got what they were looking for with a quick start and a quick goal just 3:51 into the action when Mackay’s backhander from in close beat UMass goaltender Filip Lindberg.
Minnesota-Duluth, which skated past Providence, 4-1, in the semifinals, fired six shots and produced a goal before Massachusetts was able to get one on Shepard. The Bulldogs outshot the Minutemen 14-5 in the first frame and 11-7 in the second frame dictating the play.
Anderson, cutting in down the slot, took a perfect pass from Mackay and made no mistake beating Lindberg with a well-placed shot top corner, glove side, to put Minnesota-Duluth up 2-0.
“Off the draw the puck came out, I just tried to throw it back down low because I saw (UMass) coming out to finish the hit,” Anderson said. “A good hit. I fell back out of the play. Parker was coming up the boards and made a great play in the middle. I just tried to find a hole. Parker connected (with the pass) and I just had to put it upstairs.”
Despite finding themselves down two after two, UMass never felt out of the game.
“Honestly tonight, they just out-competed us,” UMass sophomore defenseman and 2019 Hobey Baker Award Winner, Cale Makar, said. “I give them a lot of credit, they closed down on our wingers very well. We just didn’t have an attack for that and didn’t adjust to their D.”
“Just an unbelievable group of guys — by far the closest team I’ve ever been a part of,” UMass senior Kurt Keats said. “We bought into everything the coaching staff said, the last four years has been an absolute whirlwind and I couldn’t be more proud to be a Minuteman tonight.”
Massachusetts (31-10) had two power play opportunities in the third period but could not solve Shepard. With 2:42 remaining in regulation, Cates delivered the final blow putting the Bulldogs up for good with assists from Anderson and Tanner Laderoute. Anderson had a hand in all three goals for his team, finishing with a goal and two assists.
“Going into the game talking to our team, I told them I didn’t think our last game was our best game, told them we have to play our best game tonight and we did. One of our best to beat a very good team,” Minnesota-Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin said. “I think our guys were on it, got the first goal, got better, our penalty kill again was outstanding and Shepard was great when he needed to be. Just a real team effort.
“Couldn’t be more proud of this group,” Sandelin said. “They went through some different challenges, really grew together as a team and really excited for them to be National Champions again.”
Coaches get all the credit, Sandelin said, but players play the game.
“When coach Sandelin recruits guys that he wants to set an example for our program, guys like Parker… without him I don’t think we’d even be here,” Shepard, who went 8-0 in the tournament, said. “Guys like him in the locker room to bring the younger guys along and he scores such big goals. He’s never afraid to step up and be accountable for himself. That’s the reason we’ve been here the last three years — because we have guys in the locker room that know how to manage other players and exude what this program means.”
“I’ve been saying it to the media all year, Sheppy has been our brick wall all season long,” Mackay said. “He’s our most consistent player, he was our most competitive player and I don’t think we’re close to where we are without him. He doesn’t talk too loud or say too much, but once he’s on the ice he’s an awesome competitor and an absolute warrior. You want to go to war with someone like that.”
“They’re a big strong hockey team. They’ve got some big guys who are physical and their puck management was extremely good,” UMass head coach Greg Carvel said. “It was as a good a backend as we’ve seen this year. I’m not sure why we weren’t our normal selves tonight. Probably because of Duluth, but we have some kids on our team who usually play big and compete and create offense and it just wan’t there.”
After the game, Makar removed all his equipment but put his Massachusetts Minutemen jersey back on. Fresh off his 2019 Hobey Baker nod, Makar, a first round draft choice (fourth overall) by the Colorado Avalanche in 2017, could join the NHL club as early as Game 3 in the Stanely Cup Playoffs.
“I just wanted to keep it on as long as I can,” Makar said. “It’s a jersey I’m very proud to wear and our team has brought so much respect to this program. Obviously, it’s going to be a couple years I’m never going to forget.”
With the triumph, Sandelin became the 10th coach in NCAA history to win at least three National Titles joining Jerry York, Jack Parker, Gino Gasparini, Herb Brooks, Bob Johnson, John MacInnes, Murray Armstrong, Ned Harkness and Vic Heyliger.
“I’ve had great players, a great coaching staff and support staff which makes my job easy,” Sandelin, in his 19th season at Minnesota-Duluth, said. “I’m very fortunate we recruit kids who want to come to Duluth, buy into what we’re all about and this year was the same type of year. Those guys, to me, really showed the way. The way we try to build things there and we know it’s not easy.
“It’s been pretty special,” Sandelin said. “I’m blessed to be around some great people and I never take anything for granted. I just want to enjoy it with these guys and I know they’ll enjoy it for the rest of their lives.”
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
Special to HockeyClan
Main Image: The Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs celebrate the win over the Massachusetts Minutemen during the 2019 NCAA Frozen Four the championship game at KeyBank Center on April 13, 2019 in Buffalo, New York.The Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs defeated Massachusetts Minutemen 3-0 to win the national title. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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