THE TOP 'DOG AT LAST!
Kyle Schmidt’s final shift as a collegian is one he won’t ever forget – and neither will anyone who follows University of Minnesota Duluth hockey. Saturday night, the senior left winger scored 3:22 into overtime to lift the Bulldogs to a 3-2 victory over the the University of Michigan in the Frozen Four final, and, after a 67-year wait, give UMD its first national championship. The game was played before a sellout, a partisan Bulldog crowd of 19,222 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
“I didn't do a whole lot,” said Schmidt, who equaled a career high with his 11th goal of the year. “My line mates really worked their butts off in the corner to get me the puck. It was amazing.”
As was the case in Thursday’s 4-3 semifinal triumph over Notre Dame, the Bulldogs had to fight off an early deficit. UMD struggled with defensive zone faceoffs in the first period, a trend that ultimately resulted in Michigan striking first at the 14:42 mark of the first period. A clean faceoff win by the Wolverines led to a clear shot by Ben Winnett from the top of the circle, which beat junior goaltender Kenny Reiter on the stick side to give Michigan a 1-0 lead.
That advantage held through the first intermission, but UMD responded 99 seconds into the second period on junior center Travis Oleksuk’s 14th goal of the year and then went up 2-1 nine minutes later when rookie left winger Max Tardy scored for the first time as collegian, whacking in a loose puck near the right side of the Wolverine goal mouth.
“I know my teammates and my coaches had a lot of confidence in me, by putting me out there on the power play, " said Tardy. “ I was just trying to stay calm, act like I was trying to play some shinny hockey and it worked out.
Jeff Riohrkemper’s goal with less than three minutes remaining in the second period deadlocked the score, eventually setting the stage for the Bulldogs’ 15th overtime game of 2010-11. Familiar territory, indeed.
“We’ve played a lot of overtime games, especially in the beginning of the season’ said freshman right winger J.T. Brown, who was named the Frozen Four's Most Valuable Player and joined Schmidt and rookie defenseman Justin Faulk on the All-Tournament Team. “It’s not a situation you always want to be in, but we found a knack for getting it done in overtime (going 7-2-6) this year and we used that as a motivation tonight.”
Reiter, making his 10th straight start, was credited with 15 saves while Shawn Hunwick had 35 stops for Michigan (29-11-4 overall). Although the Bulldogs (26-10-6) managed to go just 1-of-9 on the power play, they held Michigan scoreless on all four of its man advantage opportunities.
Junior defenseman Brady Lamb assisted on three of the four UMD goals, including Schmidt’s game-winner and Oleksuk turned in a two-point night for the Bulldogs, who are were appearing in their second title game ever (the other coming 27 years ago).
"It’s a tremendous feeling to be a part of the first UMD team to ever bring a national championship back home," said Tardy. “It’s something that we're going to be able to look back on a long time from now and know we did it. “
NOTE: The University of Minnesota Duluth hockey team uses Bauer ice hockey pants and gear.