BUFFALO, N.Y. — Minnesota-Duluth beat Massachusetts, 3-0, to claim its second straight national championship on Saturday night at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo.
The win gave the Bulldogs their third national title in program history, all under head coach Scott Sandelin, who tied Gino Gasparini with three titles, his former coach at North Dakota.
UMD became the first back-to-back national champions since Denver repeated in 2004 and 2005.
“This is special right now,” said UMD head coach Scott Sandelin. “I couldn’t be more proud of this group. … Our gameplan we call a ground game. We’re more effective when we do that. Sometimes when we don’t play tough on the wall we’re turning more pucks over or we look to make plays instead of knowing. Tonight we wanted to be hard on teh walls and make it hard on their team and we did a good job for the most part.”
The Bulldogs struck first in the championship game while on the power play. With national semifinal hero Marc Del Gaizo in the box for an interference penalty (called at 2:31 of the first period), UMD’s Parker Mackay scored his 16th goal of the season of a set up from linemate Mikey Anderson.
“Parker was coming up the boards,” Anderson said. “He made a great play through the middle. I just tried to find a hole. Parker connected. I just had to put it upstairs.”
That goal set the tone. The first half of the opening period was all Bulldogs, with UMD holding a 9-1 shot advantage at the midpoint and finished the period outshooting the Minutemen 14-5.
The second period featured the same pace but the physicality picked up considerably.
UMD’s Nick Wolff took out Hobey Baker winner Cale Makar with a clean, but rough shoulder-to-shoulder hit early in the period. The officials also reviewed potential headshots by UMD’s Noah Cates and UMass’ Makar, but both were assessed minor penalties (roughing for Cates, interference for Makar). It appeared that Carvel asked the officials — or used his coach’s challenge — to look at the play where Cates hit Makar.
With 4:12 left in the second period UMD’s Nick Swaney separated himself from Mitchell Chaffee and found a lane to the middle of the nice where he took a feed from Mackay and doubled the Minnesota Duluth lead to 2-0.
After the minor penalty to Cates, which came at the 16:59 mark, the Bulldogs put together one of its best penalty kills of the night, limiting the Minutemen to just one shot.
At the end of the second period, the Bulldogs led, 2-0, and were outshooting the Minutemen, 25-12.
UMD was able to keep the Minutemen stifled early in the third period. The Bulldogs 1-4 setup in the neutral zone suffocated UMass’ attempts to enter the offensive zone cleanly and forced the Minutemen to the walls instead of the middle of the ice.
UMass would have a chance to cut the deficit with some more open ice at the 6:47 mark of the period when UMD’s Kobe Roth was sent off for an elbowing penalty. The officials looked at the hit but determined there was indirect contact and a minor penalty was called on Roth.
The Minutemen were able to generate some sustained pressure on the power play but again managed just one shot on goal as the Bulldogs put sticks in shooting lanes and directed pucks away from goaltender Hunter Shepard.
“We switched up our wingers and tried to get more to the middle,” Makar said. “They were pinching hard on the half wall and we needed to compete harder.”
Added winger Kurt Keats, “We made a few adjustments but our battle level needed to come up a little bit. We started getting some guys going in the second and third but that team is a different animal that we’ve seen all year.”
The Minutemen again had life with 5:02 to play in the third period when UMD’s Peter Krieger chased a loose puck with Makar and spun him to the ice after putting him in a headlock to draw a holding penalty.
However, the UMass power play again looked jittery and unorganized, losing the puck on zone entries at the blue line twice in the first minute with its top unit on the ice.
The second unit jumped over the boards and generated the first shot on Shepard 1:35 into the power play before coming off for the first unit again with an offensive-zone faceoff. The unit worked the puck up top to Makar, but Nick Swaney poked it away and the Bulldogs again killed a UMass penalty while only allowing one shot on net.
“Honestly they out-competed us tonight,” said Makar. “Give Duluth a lot of credit, they closed on our wingers well and we didn’t have enough of an attack for that. We didn’t adjust as a D.”
Shephard finished the night with 18 saves, recording his seventh shutout of the season.
“Shephard is our brick wall,” said UMD senior captain Parker Mackay. “He has been our brick wall all year. He’s our most consistent player and our most competitive player. I don’t think we’re here without him. The last two seasons he has been unbelievable. He’s not too loud and he doesn’t talk too much but when he’s at the rink and on the ice he’s a warrior.”
Then, with momentum on their side, the Bulldogs plunged the dagger. Just 20 seconds after the penalty to Krieger expired, Jackson Cates possessed the puck at the bottom of the left circle and fired a wrist shot that beat Filip Lindberg short side.
Minutes later, the Bulldogs poured onto the ice and mobbed Shepard as the final seconds ticked off the scoreboard at the KeyBank Center, as UMD once again proved it was the best program in all of college hockey.