Sunday, April 10, 2011
Yesterday the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs and the Michigan Wolverines faced off for the 2011 NCAA National Championship Game at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. Michigan was seeking to extend it's record with a tenth national title, while the Bulldogs were trying to win their first, but with the aid of a partisan Minnesota crowd, with the Bulldogs just 150 miles from their home rink plus the addition of all the Twin Cities locals adopting the in-state Bulldogs of the WCHA as their team for the weekend.
After a ceremonial puck drop by Minnesota native and NCAA champion Neal Broten, the game was underway.
Michigan thought they had scored first 4:20 into the game, but a review confirmed that the whistle had blown before the puck was jammed into the net after being covered by Bulldogs goaltender Kenny Reiter.
Three penalties were called in the first period, including Ben Winnett for Michigan being called for interference at 5:46.
Jack Connolly nearly scored for Duluth on the ensuing power play when he loudly rang one off the pipe behind Shawn Hunwick in goal for the Wolverines.
Both goalies were playing well at either end, with Duluth holding the edge in shots.
Finally, Michigan broke though on a shot just after a faceoff at 14:42 when Winnett scored his fifth of the season using a Bulldog as a screen to get one by Reiter.
Hunwick was solid through the rest of the period to keep Duluth off the scoreboard despite holding a 12-8 edge in shots on goal.
There was some rough play and hard hits in the first period, particularly by the Bulldogs.
Michigan lead 1-0 after 1 and had only lost once all season when scoring first, however UMD had come from behind after to win four times this season when trailing after one.
The Bulldogs came out strong in the second period, scoring early after a shot from the point was deflected and popped up into the air, hit a Michigan defender and Travis Olensuk put the puck past Hunwick to tie it at just 1:39.
Perhaps the save of the game occurred at 8:23 of the period when Matt Rust of Michigan had a wide open shot at Reiter from the left faceoff circle. Reiter got a healthy piece of the puck, but it had enough force to bounce up into the air and over his shoulder. Trent Palm of the Bulldogs saw the puck heading for danger and deftly batted the puck out of harm's way, saving a sure goal for Michigan, an amazing play which ESPN failed to adequately recognize.
Despite that criticism of ESPN, they did do an excellent job of capturing the spirit in the event, often showing the bands and rabid fans on both sides to give the viewers a taste of the atmosphere in the arena, something NBC failed miserably to do at the 2010 Olympic hockey games in Vancouver.
The parade to the penalty box continued, as eight penalties were called in the second period, including a hooking call on Mac Bennett at 9:09.
Max Tardy converted for Duluth to give the Bulldogs their first lead of the game when he got the rebound off of his own shot for his first goal of the season from Mike Seidel.
The Bulldogs continued to look for a chance to extend their lead, but Hunwick was strong in goal for the Wolverines as they killed off a pair of UMD power plays.
Michigan had their chances too, with nine shots on goal of their own.
Despite the edge in play for Duluth, Michigan surprised the crowd with a goal at 17:46 from Jeff Rohrkemper past Reiter, who was again screened on the play similar to the first Wolverines goal.
The goal energized Michigan who looked to be on the verge of another goal prior to the end of the period, but Duluth avoided giving up another one before the break, despite several good chances for the Wolverines.
Duluth carried the play for the first 7 minutes of the third as they tried to regain the advantage.
After the teams traded penalties and were playing four on four, Mike Connolly found a seam and walked in for a clear shot on goal, which Hunwick snared to keep the game tied at 2 at the 10:25 mark.
Kevin Lynch was called for boarding at 11:32, the 9th power play of the game.
During the power play, Duluth's Mike Connolly shot a backhander which got through Hunwick and slowly slithered toward the line. Just as it was about to give UMD the lead, defenseman Greg Pateryn, acting on instincts alone, cleared it off the line to preserve the tie for Michigan at 12:25, nearly equalling Palm's amazing save for UMD.
Reiter then had to make a stellar save on a shorthanded chance for the Wolverines later during the same powerplay, and once again the puck bounced high into the air, but fortunately for Duluth, bounced away from the goal rather than towards it this time.
The pace continued a a high rate with both teams getting their chances. With the number of TV timeouts, even the refs needed to take a breather late in the third period.
Both goaltenders continued their strong play as the game continued.
The officials began to put their whistles away, as there were no more penalties called for the remainder of the game as regulation came to an end with the score tied 2-2 and Duluth holding a 36-23 lead in shots on goal.
Within the first minute of overtime, Justin Faulk tried to win it with a shot at the short side after weaving through practically the entire Wolverines team.
At 2:30, Mike Connolly intercepted a horrible Michigan clearing attempt right into the center of the Wolverines zone only to have the defense collapse on him, preventing a shot on goal.
The repeated icing calls against Michigan meant their players had to remain out on the ice for an extended period, while the UMD were able to get some fresh legs out on the ice. Finally as Duluth cycled the puck, Oleksuk circled behind the Michigan net and sent a backhander through the crease to Kyle Schmidt, who buried it for the championship winning goal for the Bulldogs at 3:22 of overtime.
Schmidt then broke into one of the most glorious goal celebrations you will ever see, racing down the ice with his arms in the air, deftly avoiding all his teammates, until he reached the far blueline, where he laid down on his back and began making snowangels as he slid the rest of the way to the far end of the ice with the remainder of his team in hot pursuit!
Once they caught up with Schmidt, the celebration was on, while he lay on the ice for an extended period of time letting the moment sink in.
After some interviews with ESPN, the chaotic trophy presentation was held and team captain Mike Montgomery began the tradition of passing the trophy from teammate to teammate, which included goaltender Reiter.
Following the game, the celebration spilled out onto West 7th Street.
Today's video highlight is Schmidt's game winning goal in overtime and his exuberant goal celebration.
Next are highlights from the ESPN broadcast of the championship final.