Back-to-Back Champions, Minnesota-Duluth Remains Top Dog in NCAA Frozen Four

Photo Credit: Marilyn Indahl (USA Today Sports)

No longer a Cinderella Story, the No. 2 University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs are your National Champions in back-to-back years. The Bulldogs suffocated the No. 4 Massachusetts Minutemen for a 3-0 victory that never seemed to be in jeopardy for the defending champs.

Becoming the first team to successfully defend their title since the Denver Pioneers did it in ’04 and ’05, the Bulldogs stayed true to the defensive formula and balanced attack that guided them to a 29-11-2 record while finishing on an eight-game winning streak.

The Bulldogs and head coach Scott Sandelin will now look forward to raising their third National Championship banner in the last nine years, three more than they had in program history before 2011. In his 19th season as the Bulldog’s bench boss, Sandelin becomes just the ninth NCAA Division I coach all time to win three or more titles with one program.

UMD jumped out to an early lead after some slick passing from junior Riley Tufte to sophomore defenseman Mikey Anderson, who found senior captain Parker Mackay in the slot to bury the first goal of the game at 16:09 in the first period on the power play.

That early tally by the captain proved to be the only goal UMD and goaltender Hunter Shepard would need in this one, holding the Minutemen to only 18 shots. The shutout was Shepard’s seventh of the season in another fantastic effort by the junior netminder, who was in control from start to finish.

The score remained at 1-0 for the next period and a half before Mackay was able to possess the puck in the corner and grab the attention of the defenders before finding Anderson open at the top of the circles where he was able to walk in and unload a great wrister to double the lead at the 4:12 mark of the second period.

The third and final UMD goal came with just 2:42 left in the third period when freshman Jackson Cates and fellow rookie Tanner Laderoute were able to regain possession in the corner after a missed 2-on-1 opportunity. Laderoute was able to hold off a defender while Cates regained the puck and fired a shot short-side from the bottom of the left circle past UMass goalie Filip Lindberg, icing any hope UMass had of a comeback.

Mikey Anderson finished the game with a goal and two assists while Mackay became the second Bulldog captain in as many years to be awarded the Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament, following the example set by Karson Kuhlman, who is now a Boston Bruin. Mackay finished the NCAA Tournament with four goals and an assist. Shepard wrapped up the tournament only allowing three goals over the four-game run.

The 2019 All-Tournament Team featured a lot of maroon and gold with Mackay, Shepard and Anderson being joined by sophomore Justin Richards and senior Billy Exell, as well as UMass defenseman Marc Del Gazio.

Much was made of the defensive prowess for not just the Bulldogs, but each of the final four teams heading into the tournament. UMD held up their end of the bargain, shutting down Hobey Baker winner Cale Makar and the Minutemen for a full 60 minutes. They also held the No. 1 ranked power play in the nation off the board in four chances while converting on 1-of-4 power plays of their own.

There will be plenty of questions surrounding the UMD roster and who might be leaving early for the NHL before next season, including Sandelin who figures to factor into a handful of the NHL coaching vacancies this summer. Nevertheless, Sandelin has turned the Bulldogs into the premier program in Division I hockey, and the ‘Dogs will be a favorite to return to the Frozen Four when the puck drops to start next season and make a run at a three-peat in 2020.

But for now, this group of players and coaches will celebrate their incredible accomplishments during another historic season for the Minnesota-Duluth program.

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