Bulldogs First Team To Go “Back to Back” Since 2004-2005
Buffalo, NY. — A physical, dominating, and relentless attack by the experienced Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs was too much for the upstart University of Massachusetts Minutemen in the 2019 NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Final. An early first-period goal by Parker Mackay would prove to be the game-winner as the Bulldogs bulldozed the Minutemen in front of 13,624 at the KeyBank Center.
The match-up featured a storybook ending for either team that won. For UMass it would have been the programs first national championship, while Duluth had the chance to be the first back to back winner in over a decade.
2018-19 for the Minutemen has been a season of firsts. The first ever number one ranking, the first ever regular season conference championship, the first ever Hobey Baker Award Winner (Cale Makar) and the first-ever appearance in the Frozen Four.
Their opponent didn’t have the same kind of success throughout the season. At times the Bulldogs struggled to fit in new pieces and had to face every opponent’s best shot as defending champs. But when it all mattered, Duluth strung together the wins to capture the NCHC tournament championship, and ultimately NCAA glory. Again.
The Bulldogs controlled the play early in the first period. Duluth had the game’s first power play opportunity at 2:32 when Thursday’s hero Marc Del Gaizo was called for Interference. The Minutemen couldn’t clear their zone when they gained possession. Mikey Anderson fed an all alone Parker Mackay behind the UMass defense. Mackay easily beat Filip Lindberg with a backhander. 1-0 Duluth at 3:51 on the power play goal.
The Minutemen were struggling to maintain possession long enough throughout the period. When they did, they were unable to test Hunter Shepard. A spurt of UMass pressure led to a Scott Perunovich Holding call at 12:23. The nation’s best power play looked terrible as UMD easily killed off the penalty.
Jake Gaudet was called for Incidental Contact to the Head at 18:37. The Minutemen responded with a solid penalty kill of their own. The Bulldogs clearly outplayed the Minutemen in the period. Duluth held the shot advantage 14-5 and won the face-off battle 13-8.
The second period started with Duluth still a man up. Dylan Samberg was in alone on Lindberg but couldn’t put the puck past the freshman from Espoo, Finland. The pace of play in the period seen back and forth action at each end. The play continued being physical, and UMass played sloppily. Two breakaway opportunities for the Bulldogs sandwiched a solid chance for Brett Boeing that Shepard turned aside.
Mackay’s second point of the night came when he fired a pass from the right half-wall to a streaking Mikey Anderson in the slot. Anderson wristed a shot past Lindberg for the 2-0 Bulldogs lead at 15:48.
The Minutemen had another power play opportunity when Noah Cates was whistled for Roughing at 16:59. UMass was again unable to muster much due to solid pressure by the Bulldogs penalty kill. Cale Makar would give the Bulldogs the power play chance when he was called for Interference at 19:41. UMD continued to dominate the play as they carried the shot total 11-7 (25-12 total) and 24-14 in face-off wins.
The final twenty minutes began with the Minutemen a man down. UMass had a better pace to open the period, and looked to get some momentum going when Kobe Roth was called for Incidental Contact to the Head-Elbowing at 6:47. Despite a few decent looks for UMass, Shepard was focused.
Duluth was beating the Minutemen to pucks all night. They had good stick play, solid body checks, and played with a hunger that UMass couldn’t match. At 14:58 Peter Krieger was called for Holding on an ugly headlock takedown of Makar. The sophomore Hobey winner wasn’t able to perform up to his usual standards on this night. UMD again held the Minutemen scoreless on the power play (0-4) with only three registered shots on goal.
After this successful penalty kill, the Bulldogs sealed the win, and the title, at 17:18, on a two on one opportunity. Jackson Cates skated along the boards, dished to Tanner Laderoute, who got bumped by the UMass defender but slid the puck back through his legs to Cates. Cates fired a wrist shot past Lindberg sending the UMD faithful into a frenzy in the arena. 3-0 with just over two minutes to play had the Bulldogs bench chomping at the bit to celebrate.
As time wound down, the puck was in the UMass end, the horn sounded and the historic UMass season was over, and the Bulldogs were “Back to Back” Champs. Helmets, sticks, and gloves littered the UMD zone as players mobbed Shepard at his net and pushed into the corner of the rink.
Duluth Head Coach Scott Sandelin became the ninth coach to win three or more NCAA titles, only three others have more than him. “Wow, pretty special right now,” said Sandelin after the game. “I want to congratulate UMass. They had a great year. Going into the game, talking to our team, hopefully, they’ll echo the same thought, I just said, I don’t think we played our best game tonight. We knew we had to play a better hockey game, one of our best to beat a very good team. I thought our guys from start to finish were on it. Still was hard, but we got the first goal, got better. I thought our penalty kill, again, was outstanding. Shep, again, great when he needed to be. Just a real team effort. Couldn’t be more proud of this group. They went through some different challenges this year. They really grew together as a team. I’m just really excited for them to be national champions again.”
UMass was the sixth team to get shutout in the finals in NCAA history. The Minutemen only mustered 18 shots on goal which was the second lowest in finals history. Despite the poor performance, Head Coach Greg Carvel was reflective in his post-game comments. “Excellent hockey team. Not surprising they’ve been in the championship game for three years in a row,” said Carvel. “Extremely well-coached team. Seemed like tonight they were a more mature team. For whatever reason, our compete level wasn’t at the level it usually is. I don’t know how much of that was Duluth, how much of it was us playing late on Thursday night, not being able to recover as well as we hoped to. We just didn’t really get stretches of momentum. I thought actually our fourth line was our best line tonight, created the most offense for us. They’re a very good team. I think we looked like a young team tonight. It’s a learning lesson. I think our team will take a step forward, having played that team.”
Carvel veered off a bit onto a subject on everyone’s mind, the fate of Makar and his collegiate career. “Very proud of my team, our team, and extremely proud of Cale. He came back this year. He didn’t have to do that. I think he’s a kid that he sees the group ahead of himself, he wanted to help take the program to another level, and he did that along the way. He did it with complete class every step of the way. He’s an outstanding young man. I think he’s a better person than he is a hockey player. Very appreciative of what he gave to UMass hockey. Hoping he comes back next year, but we’ll see if that happens or not.”
Parker Mackay was named Most Outstanding Player with one goal and two assists. Hunter Shepard allowed only one goal on 54 shots through the two games. The All-Tournament Team was UMD’s Shepard, Mackay, Justin Richards, Billy Exell, Mikey Anderson, and UMass’ Marc Del Gaizo.