Talk about an encore.
One year after claiming the NCAA championship, the University of Minnesota Duluth duplicated that feat on Saturday night — and in convincing style.
Sophomore defenseman Mikey Anderson had a hand in all three goals and junior goaltender Hunter Shepard deftly handled matters at the other end of the rink as the Bulldogs took down the University of Massachusetts 3-0 in the NCAA Frozen Four title game at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, N.Y. Senior team captain Parker Mackay also scored once and assisted on another goal for UMD, which has now won three national championships — all in this decade (2011, 2018 and 2019).
Mackay gave the Bulldogs all the scoring they would need 3:51 into the first period when he backhanded in a shot from in close on the power play for his team-leading 16th goal of the season. UMD took that 1-0 lead into the first intermission (despite outshooting the Minutemen 14-5) but doubled that advantage with 4:12 remaining in the second period after Anderson took a nifty feed from Mackay and unloaded a wrister from between the face off circles that beat UMass goaltender Filip Lindberg high to the glove side. Freshman center Jackson Cates then sealed the deal at 17:18 of the third period and made the Bulldogs the nation’s first back-to-back NCAA champions in 14 years.
Hunter Shepard, making his school-record 81st consecutive start, stopped all 18 shots the Minutemen sent his way en route to registering his seventh shut out of the year (and program-best 15th as a Bulldog). Shepard, who allowed just three goals in four NCAA Tournament appearances this season, was joined on the Frozen Four All-Tournament by Mackay, Anderson, senior right winger Billy Exell and sophomore center Justin Richards.
“We knew we had to play our best hockey game to beat a very good team tonight,” said Scott Sandelin, who became just the ninth head coach in NCAA history to win three national titles. “I thought our guys from start to finish were on it. It still was hard at times, but then we got the first goal and then got better. I thought our penalty kill was outstanding and Hunter Shepard was great when he needed to be. It was a real team effort and again, I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. They went through some different challenges this year and grew together as a team. I just couldn’t be happier for them to be national champions again.”
The Bulldogs finished the year with a 29-11-2 overall record (those 29 victories are the second-most in program history) and riding a eight-game winning streak. They also improved to 27-12 all-time in NCAA Tournament play for a .692 winning percentage — the best mark of any school in the country.
(info and photo courtesy of UMD Sports)