Sunday, April 10, 2011

Minnesota-Duluth 2011 National Champions

Bulldogs' long wait is over: UMD men win college hockey title
By: Kevin Pates, Duluth News Tribune at

The Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey team celebrates its first national
 title after Saturday night’s 3-2 overtime victory against Michigan.
 (Clint Austin /

ST. PAUL — After 50 years of Division I hockey, Minnesota Duluth still had one small matter to settle Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center.

The Bulldogs had yet to win an NCAA Division I championship.

No. 5-ranked Michigan came into the title game as the NCAA leader with nine championships and had pushed through the Division I tournament by beating three straight Western Collegiate Hockey Association teams.

No. 9 UMD stopped the Wolverines in their tracks as senior winger Kyle Schmidt, just 10 days removed from hand surgery, buried a pass from center Travis Oleksuk at 3:22 of overtime to beat Michigan 3-2 before an announced crowd of 19,222 at the Xcel Energy Center.

UMD’s fourth straight win and a school-record seventh overtime victory finished a job started six months earlier. The Bulldogs had their title.

“It wasn’t looking good for a while after surgery (March 29). For three or four days I couldn’t shoot, I couldn’t hold my stick. I was icing my hand, five, six, seven times a day to help the healing,” said Schmidt, who had a screw inserted in a broken right hand, that also was broken Dec. 29th at practice and needed surgery. “The coaches gave me a shot to get back on my line and there was no way I wasn’t going to play.

“(Oleksuk) put the puck on my tape and I had half the net to shoot at. All I could think was ‘I can’t miss this one.’ ”

On a night when Michigan held the top-scoring line in Division I without a point and killed eight of nine UMD power plays, the Bulldogs found a way to win.

UMD’s No. 2 line accounted for two goals — from Oleksuk, whose dad, Bill, was a former Bulldog scoring star, and Schmidt. Freshman center Max Tardy of Duluth, who figured he had just six shifts in the game, scored his first collegiate goal on a second-period power play. He had been put on UMD’s No. 2 power play this week for Schmidt, who was trying to keep his hand healthy. Junior goalie Kenny Reiter made 22 saves. Defenseman Brady Lamb had two assists.

The Bulldogs (26-10-6) finished 6-1 in the postseason, and outshot Michigan (29-11-4) 38-24. The Bulldogs were in the title game only once previously, losing to Bowling Green State of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association 5-4 in four overtimes in 1984 in Lake Placid, N.Y.

“We knew Michigan’s background and that they had won so many titles, but we felt (that) if we played our game, we’d have a decent chance,” said UMD freshman winger J.T. Brown, who was named tournament MVP. “We have the skills and the work ethic to beat any team. Even after we got behind we kept saying ‘The next one. The next shift. We’ll score on the next one.’ That was our best game of the playoffs.”

The Bulldogs fell behind 1-0 after one period, then rallied with two second-period goals from Oleksuk and Tardy. Michigan, the CCHA regular-season champion, tied it with 2:14 left in the second period on a Jeff Rohrkemper goal.

There was no scoring in the third period, a considerably better third period than in Thursday’s 4-3 win over Notre Dame, when outshot 15-2.

Then on UMD’s second shot on goal of overtime, the Bulldogs became champions. Michigan goalie Shawn Hunwick expected Oleksuk to try a wraparound attempt from behind the net, instead Oleksuk, a junior from Thunder Bay, Ontario, backhanded the puck to Schmidt at the crease. Hunwick couldn’t react fast enough and the guy who was named the Unsung Hero in Division I on Friday scored his 11th goal of the season and 26th of his career.

“Our No. 1 line carried us all year, all the way through the playoffs, and tonight we needed someone else to pick us up, and it was our night to do that,” said Oleksuk.

Special teams play led the Bulldogs in the previous three NCAA games and UMD had two power-play chances in the first period, but came up empty.

Michigan’s No. 3 line connected from a faceoff in the offensive zone as seniors Matt Rust and Ben Winnett combined. Rust won the draw to Winnett, who cranked from the top of the left circle to the near side by Reiter with 5:18 left in the opening period. The Rust line, given the task of checking the high-scoring Jack Connolly line, put the Wolverines up despite being outshot 12-8 through 20 minutes.

UMD’s best early chance came as Connolly rang a power-play shot off a pipe to Hunwick’s right 6:24 into the game. Two minutes earlier, Michigan scoring leader Carl Hagelin thought he’d scored, knocking the puck from under Reiter’s leg. Yet the Hockey East referees working the game determined a whistle preceded the shot.

“We turned the puck over way to many times and we had just too many penalties,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “When one team gets nine power plays and the other team gets four, it doesn’t add up. We were on our heels a lot.

“UMD is a better team than we thought they were during the regular season. They’re the real deal. Their power play is as good as we’ve seen all year.”

Goals eight minutes apart gave UMD a 2-1 lead midway through the second period. Oleksuk, whose dad, Bill, scored 90 goals at UMD, snapped in a bouncing puck at the right circle 99 seconds into the period, ending Hunwick’s shutout streak at 85 minutes and 14 seconds. Fourth-line center Tardy scored just 22 seconds into a power play. He worked a 2-on-1 backdoor play and put in his own rebound.

“I tried to pass to Oleksuk, a defender’s stick got in the way and knocked the puck right back to me and I shot right away,” said Tardy, a former Duluth East star. “The goalie couldn’t get back.”

Tardy pulled on his jersey, to show the Bulldog to the crowd, which roared its approval for a 2-1 lead. The goal came 22 seconds into power-play No. 4. Rohrkemper, a fourth-line center, tied it.

The lone Minnesota entrant in a Minnesota Frozen Four then waited for its moment in OT. The Bulldogs had won five overtime games in their first 14 this season to put themselves on the fast track. The fourth-place team in the WCHA claimed the first NCAA title for the league since Wisconsin beat Boston College 2-1 in Milwaukee in 2006, another home-state victory. In the last NCAA final at Xcel Energy Center, home-state Minnesota beat Maine 4-3 in overtime in 2002.

The UMD women’s team won its fifth Division I title in 2010, over Cornell University 3-2 in three overtimes, at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis.

UMD coach Scott Sandelin, who had the Bulldogs in the 2004 Frozen Four, made his message simple entering sudden death.

“I told them it’s our time. I told them, ‘You’ve been in this situation all year. You’ve been in the most (OT) games, won the most (OT) games. It’s your time,” he said

Schmidt sealed the deal.

Minnesota Duluth............ 0-2-0-1—3
Michigan.......................... 1-1-0-0—2

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