Bulldogs win NCAA hockey championship with overtime goal
ST. PAUL -- After 50 years of Division I hockey, Minnesota Duluth still had one matter to settle Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center.
The Bulldogs had yet to win an NCAA Division I championship and faced Michigan in the 2011 title game, six months after the season's start.
Overtime seemed destined for UMD, which played five sudden-death wins in the season's first 14 games.
Senior winger Kyle Schmidt fulfilled the team's destiny with a goal at 3:22 of overtime. Center Travis Oleksuk passed from behind the net and Schmidt shot off the pass for his 11th goal of the season. The shot eluded Michigan's Shawn Hunwick, named to the all-tournament team.
The No. 9-ranked Bulldogs finished the season 7-2-6 in overtime, the most overtime games and wins in one season in program history.
The matchup pitted the most-successful hockey program in NCAA playoff history against a program seeking its first national title. No. 5-ranked Michigan had won nine Division I championships, the last in 1998.
UMD (26-10-6) finished with four straight wins and was 6-1 in the postseason, outshooting Michigan (29-11-4) 38-24. The Bulldogs were in the title game only once previously, losing to Bowling Green State of the CCHA 5-4 in four overtimes in 1984 in Lake Placid, N.Y.
The Bulldogs fell behind 1-0 after one period, then rallied with two third-period goals from Oleksuk and freshman Max Tardy of Duluth, on a power play, for his first collegiate goal. Junior goalie Kenny Reiter had 22 saves.
Michigan, the Central Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season champion, tied it with 2:14 left in the second period on a Jeff Rohrkemper goal.
Special teams play led the Bulldogs in the previous three games and UMD had two power-play chances in the first period, but came up empty.
Michigan's No. 3 line connected from a faceoff in the offensive zone as seniors Matt Rust and Ben Winnett combined. Rust won the draw to Winnett, who cranked from the top of the left circle to the near side by Reiter with 5:18 left in the opening period. The Rust line, given the task of checking the Jack Connolly line, put the Wolverines up despite being outshot 12-8 through 20 minutes.
UMD's best early chance came as Jack Connolly rang a power-play shot off a pipe to Hunwick's right 6:24 into the game. Two minutes earlier, Michigan's Carl Hagelin thought he'd scored, knocking the puck from under Reiter's leg. Yet the Hockey East referees working the game determined a whistle preceded the shot.
Goals eight minutes apart gave UMD a 2-1 lead midway through the second period. Junior center Oleksuk, son of former Bulldog center Bill Oleksuk, snapped in a bouncing puck at the right circle 99 seconds into the period, ending Hunwick's shutout streak at 85 minutes and 14 seconds. Fourth-line center Tardy scored just 22 seconds into a power play. He worked a 2-on-1 backdoor play and put in his own rebound.
That lead held until 2:14 remained in the second period. Michigan's fourth-line center, sophomore Rohrkemper, also got a rebound at the crease for his third goal of the season.
UMD led in shots on goal 27-17 through 40 minutes.
There was no scoring in the third period, although it took a save by Michigan defenseman Greg Pateryn at the crease with 7:15 to play to aid Hunwick. Shots on goal through regulation favored UMD 36-23.
Michigan had been marching through the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. On the way to Saturday's NCAA Division I men's hockey championship game, the Wolverines had disposed of sixth-place Colorado College and third-place Nebraska-Omaha in the West Regional, and WCHA champion North Dakota in the Frozen Four semifinals.
The regular-season champions of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association next had their sights set on UMD in the finals. No. 9 UMD had finished fourth in the WCHA before making its own postseason push, beating to Eastern College Athletic Conference members and Notre Dame of the CCHA.
UMD's only other appearance in the title game was 1984 in Lake Placid, N.Y., losing to the CCHA's Bowling Green State 5-4 in four overtimes, the longest championship game in NCAA history. UMD volunteer assistant coach Bill Watson was a junior winger on that team.
UMD entered the game 2-0-1 versus CCHA teams this season while Michigan was 6-2-1 against the WCHA. Although Michigan was once a WCHA member, the schools hadn't met in nearly a decade, since a 3-2 UMD victory in the finals of the Maverick Stampede in Omaha.
Michigan has been in 24 Frozen Fours, with an NCAA-leading nine titles. The Wolverines were last in a championship game in 1998, beating Boston College 3-2 in overtime in Boston. UMD, in the Frozen Four four times, last qualified for the semifinals in 2004 and Michigan in 2003 with both losing in the first round.
Despite losing in the WCHA Final Five quarterfinals to Bemidji State last month, the Bulldogs did have good memories of the Xcel Energy Center. They made history by being the first to win three straight games in the league playoffs, taking the Broadmoor Trophy in 2009.
The Wolverines were on a 12-1 streak heading into the title game with four straight wins, including over tournament favorite North Dakota 2-0 Thursday. The Bulldogs, bleaching their hair blond to start the playoffs, had won three in a row and were 5-1 in the postseason, including a 5-3 win over No. 1-ranked Yale University in the East Regional final in Bridgeport, Conn.
Michigan's Red Berenson, sixth in career wins among Division I coaches with 728 in 27 years, was seeking a third NCAA title to go along with championships in 1996 and 1998. Berenson credited goalie Marty Turco for spearheading the 1998 title run.
UMD junior Kenny Reiter and Michigan senior Shawn Hunwick were each named MVPs in NCAA regional tournaments.
In 2010, the UMD women's team defeated Cornell University 3-2 in triple overtime to win the Division I title at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis. The UMD women have won five NCAA championships.
Minnesota Duluth............ 0-2-0-1--3
First period -- 1. Michigan, Ben Winnett 5 (Matt Rust), 14:42. Penalties -- Winnett, Michigan (interference), 5:46; Jake Hendrickson, UMD (boarding), 9:22; Chris Brown, Michigan (charging), 11:35.
Second period -- 2. UMD, Travis Oleksuk 14 (Brady Lamb, J.T. Brown), 1:39; 3. UMD, Max Tardy 1 (Mike Seidel, Lamb), 9:31 (pp); 4. Michigan, Jeff Rohrkemper 3 (Greg Pateryn, Derek DeBlois), 17:46. Penalties -- Mac Bennett, Michigan (hooking), 9:09; C. Brown, Michigan (interference), 12:06; Clare, Michigan (tripping), 14:08; J.T. Brown, UMD (roughing), 15:04; Shawn Hunwick, Michigan (roughing, served by Louie Caporusso), 15:04; Jack Connolly, UMD (slashing), 15:18.
Third period -- No scoring. Penalties -- Bennett, Michigan (holding), 2:23; Brady Lamb, UMD (hit after whistle), 9:19; Jon Merrill, Michigan (holding), 9:27; Kevin Lynch, Michigan (boarding), 11:32.
Overtime -- 5. UMD, Kyle Schmidt 11 (Oleksuk, Lamb), 3;22. Penalties -- None.
Shots on goal -- UMD 12-15-9-2--38; Michigan 8-9-6-1--24. Goalies -- Kenny Reiter (16-7-5), UMD (24 shots-22 saves); Shawn Hunwick (22-9-4), Michigan (38 shots-36 saves). Power plays -- UMD 1-of-9, Michigan 0-of-4. Referees -- Tim Benedetto, Jeff Bunyon. Linesmen -- Bob Bernard, Chris Aughe. A -- 19,222.