BUFFALO, N.Y. - Goalie Hunter Shepard can’t imagine how Minnesota Duluth could have defended its national college hockey title without captain Parker Mackay.
“Without him, I don’t think we would be where we are this year,” Shepard said about the senior forward.
Mackay, seated next to him in the postgame news conference, could say the same thing about Shepard.
Mackay had a goal and an assist, and Shepard stopped 18 shots in leading the Bulldogs to a 3-0 win over Massachusetts on Saturday night.
The Bulldogs (29-11-2) became the ninth school to successfully defend a title. It’s the third championship for UMD, which beat Notre Dame in the Frozen Four final a year ago and also won in 2011.
Shepard had his seventh shutout of the season and nation-leading 29th victory, improving his NCAA tournament record to 8-0.
“Shepy’s been our brick wall all season long. He was our most consistent player,” Mackay said about the junior goalie. “I don’t think we are even close to where we are without him.”
Mikey Anderson had a goal and two assists for UMD, and Noah Cates scored with 2 minutes, 42 seconds left to seal the victory for the Bulldogs, who were making their third consecutive appearance in the final, dating to a 3-2 loss to Denver in 2017.
The Bulldogs’ experience on the big stage proved to be an edge over a young UMass opponent. The Minutemen (31-10) were making their first appearance in the championship game and just their second in the NCAA tournament.
The Bulldogs dominated from the start and were outshooting the Minutemen 6-0 when Mackay opened the scoring on a power play at 3:51 of the first period. It was only UMD’s second power-play goal in its past 24 chances.
The Minutemen didn’t manage their first shot on net until the 4:16 mark and were outshot 14-5 in the period.
Mackay then set up Anderson’s goal. Controlling the puck along the right boards, Mackay spun around in the corner and hit Anderson in stride while he was making his way to the high slot. Anderson took a few steps and snapped a shot inside the right post.
With their top six defensemen returning, the Bulldogs were adept in hampering the Minutemen’s speed through the neutral zone and clogging up the middle in their own zone. UMass had scored four or more goals in seven of its past nine games.
All three Minnesota Duluth’s championships have come during coach Scott Sandelin’s 19-year tenure. Sandelin improved his tournament record to 21-6, and the Bulldogs’ 29 wins were their most since going 36-9-3 in 1984-85.
“We never take it for granted,” Sandelin said. “You really enjoy it because you don’t know when you’re going to get that opportunity again.”