When the NCAA men's hockey championship game went into overtime Saturday, the outcome was almost predictable.
"It was our 15th overtime game this season," Minnesota Duluth coach Scott Sandelin said on a radio sports show Sunday, "so our guys felt pretty comfortable."
Comfortable and confident.
The puck just stayed in the Michigan zone until senior winger Kyle Schmidt buried a close-range shot 3 minutes, 22 seconds into the extra period. Schmidt's 11th goal gave UMD a 3-2 victory over the Wolverines in the championship game of the Frozen Four at Xcel Energy Center.
The national title was the Bulldogs' first in 50 seasons as a Division I program. Michigan remains stuck at a record nine NCAA titles; the Wolverines' last championship came in 1998.
The 15 overtime games are a UMD single-season record, as are the Bulldogs' seven overtime victories. Remember, extra periods in regular-season games are only five minutes long.
"Get pucks to the net," Sandelin told his players before overtime. "Don't pass up shots. Make sure we're taking care of the puck."
Was his pep talk of Herb Brooks quality?
"[Sandelin] had one of his best performances in between periods there," Schmidt said. "He got us going in there."
"I think [Sandelin] said, 'It's our time,' about five or six times," said freshman winger Max Tardy, referring to Brooks' most famous speech before his underdog U.S. team defeated the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics.
"We've played overtime more than [the Wolverines] have and most of the nation," freshman winger J.T. Brown said. "We know what to do to get it done."
UMD finished 7-2-6 in overtime games this season, the Wolverines 2-3-3.Future bright
Minnesota Duluth (26-10-6) had five seniors on its roster. Four were in the lineup against Michigan (29-11-4).
Justin Fontaine played on the Bulldogs' top line, Schmidt on the second line. Fontaine had 22 goals and 58 points and was a key player on the power play. Schmidt finished with 22 points. But among the forwards expected back are Fontaine's linemates, Mike Connolly (28-26--54) and Jack Connolly (18-41--59), both juniors now, and freshman Brown (16-21--37). Brown was named the Frozen Four's most outstanding player.
On defense, UMD loses captain Mike Montgomery, who played on the first set of defensemen with talented freshman Justin Faulk, and Trent Palm, who was on the third pair of blueliners.
Kenny Reiter and Aaron Crandall both should be back in goal.
"If we keep everyone, we could have a decent team," Sandelin said.
The big question mark is whether Faulk, a second-round pick of Carolina in the 2010 NHL draft, will sign a pro contract. Faulk, of South St. Paul, is 5-11, 200 pounds, and he has a big shot. He led freshmen defensemen in Division I in scoring (8-25--33).
The men's hockey title is the latest in a recent run of athletic success at Minnesota Duluth. The UMD women's hockey team won its fifth NCAA title in 2010. The Bulldogs' football team won its second NCAA Division II championship in three years in 2010.
"Now that we have [one]," Schmidt said, "hopefully we can start racking them up."
A celebration for Sandelin's team is being planned for 6 pm. Wednesday at AMSOIL Arena in Duluth. The UMD players and coaches were honored Sunday at the Twins game at Target Field and the Wild's game at Xcel Energy Center.