Best in the state of hockey. Best in the country.
Minnesota Duluth earned those distinctions for the second year in a row and for the third time in nine years by embracing the black-hats role Saturday night at KeyBank Center and foiling University of Massachusetts’ bid of authoring the perfect ending to its season of firsts.
The defending champion Bulldogs completed the repeat by defeating UMass, 3-0, before a crowd of 13,624.
Parker Mackay recorded a goal and an assist, Mikey Anderson also scored while Jackson Cates added a late tally to give UMD fans in the house a reason to celebrate early. Junior netminder Hunter Shepard turned aside 18 shots as Duluth put the shackles on the nation’s third-best offense. By doing that, the Bulldogs became the first team to repeat as national champions since Denver followed up its 2004 crown by winning it all in 2005.
Minnesota Duluth’s power play did its job, breaking a scoreless tie before the game was four minutes old. Mackay, parked alone in front of the UMass net, received a one-time pass from the point from Anderson and quickly backhanded a shot upstairs past Filip Lindberg to give the Bulldogs the lead for keeps.
That’s the only time UMD slipped one past Lindberg during the opening 20-plus minutes even though it compiled the chances and shots.
Simply put Lindberg was the Minutemen’s best player as Duluth’s speed and forecheck kept them on their heels. Lindberg stopped 13 shots in the first period and the first nine he faced in the second.
UMD had two breakaway chances in a span of a minute to extend its lead but failed to do so as the first attempt by Nick Swaney sailed high and the second try by Justin Richards flew wide.
It was the 10th shot of the second period that gave the Bulldogs some breathing room and put UMass in a bit of trouble. Off a faceoff in the Minutemen's zone, Mackay saw Anderson streaking in from the point down the slot unguarded. Anderson fired a shot in the top corner to make it 2-0 with 4:12 left in the period.