An Olympian, a Stanley Cup champion, and a NHL rookie standout: The Bulldogs carry a successful history into their 88th season
The defending National Champions kicked off their regular season on Saturday, Oct. 6th. The Bulldogs faced off against their long time rival, the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. This began the 88th season as a Division l hockey team for the Bulldogs, and with that, they are bringing nearly a century of history onto the ice with them.
Since its inaugural season in 1930, the University of Minnesota Duluth has established itself as one of the top hockey programs in the nation, bringing home two national titles in six Final Four tournament appearances. This success is due to the exceptional players that have worn the maroon and gold. The UMD Bulldogs have been fortunate to have over 50 of their alumni players drafted into professional hockey.
Alex Iafallo, who had an award winning career with the Bulldogs, playing from 2013-2017, brought home honors such as MVP for the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) tournament. He was also chosen to be a part of the All-Rookie team his freshman year. His senior year, Iafallo led the team in goals, recording 21 goals in his 42 games. Iafallo already had his next team before the end of his senior year. On April 19, 2017 he signed a two year deal with the Los Angeles Kings. Winning a spot on the roster for the opening night, Iafallo played 75 of the Kings 82 regular season games in the 2017-2018 season.
Beyond just being drafted into the National Hockey League (NHL), former Bulldogs have triumphed at the highest level of the league. Matt Niskanen, born in Virginia, Minnesota, won the Stanley Cup in 2018 as a member of the Washington Capitals. Niskanen had a short career with the Bulldogs. He only played 77 games with UMD and has 45 points (goals and assists) to show for it. In March of his sophomore year he was invited to play with the Iowa Stars, a minor league team in the American Hockey League (AHL). After just 13 games, Niskanen impressed league scouts and was drafted by the Dallas Stars. Four seasons later he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins and, after another four years, the right-handed defenseman was traded to the Washington Capitals.
Mason Raymond, a teammate of Matt Niskanen’s, also found success after his time with the Bulldogs but his recognition went beyond the NHL. Raymond, who was a Bulldog from 2005-2007, received 75 points in his 79 games with Duluth. Raymond Signed with the Vancouver Canucks after his Sophomore year. In his six years with the Canucks, Raymond scored 80 goals and received the “Unsung Hero” award from the team in 2010. Raymond was also mentioned in an episode of the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother. In Season 3, Episode 11 Robin Scherbatsky (played by Cobie Smulders) boasts about getting to meet Mason Raymond, following a game she attends on a date.
The reach of the University of Minnesota Duluth alumni is not limited to the rosters of the NHL. Mark Pavelich, who played at UMD from 1976-79, scored 57 goals in his 110 games with the Bulldogs, 37 of which came in his final season. In 1979-1980 Pavelich was a member of the “Miracle” United States Olympic Hockey team, made famous by beating the Soviet Union in the first game of the medal round, a game where they were heavy underdogs. Pavelich is credited with two assists in the historic game, one of which came on the game-winning goal. After the Olympics, Mark jumped around the NHL playing for the New York Rangers, Minnesota North Stars, and San Jose Sharks in his 11 year career.
The four men mentioned above are just a drop in the bucket when it comes to the elite of Bulldog alumni. Of the over 50 to make it to the NHL, seven former Bulldogs have gone on to win the Stanley Cup. Twelve Bulldogs have gone on to represent their respective nations in the Olympics and NCAA leading five Bulldogs have won the coveted Hobey Baker award ,which is granted out once a year to an outstanding college player, most recently being Jack Connolly in 2012. Of the current Bulldog’s 26 man roster, seven have been approached by NHL teams for post college play. The UMD Bulldogs have an illustrious past and with the success of the last season the future looks just as bright.
Editors note: In a previous version of this story it stated that seven Bulldogs have won the Hobey Barker award instead of five. The error has since been corrected.