Looking back on the team of destiny

UMD celebrates its second national championship. Photo by Krista Mathes

UMD celebrates its second national championship. Photo by Krista Mathes

The 2017-18 University of Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey team endured a lot of ups and downs in route to the programs second National Collegiate Athletic Association Frozen Four national title. Proving many doubters wrong and coming together as a team as the season went on, the Bulldogs were once again the last ‘dogs standing.

On March 17, UMD walked out of the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, unsure on whether they would be playing in next 2018 NCAA tournament. The Bulldogs had just lost to the University of North Dakota the first time since 2016 (a streak that last eight games and was a program best) to end their National Collegiate Hockey Conference Frozen Faceoff weekend winless.

Due to an unordinary year in college hockey and the PairWise rankings, the Bulldogs were pushed to the brink of top 16 teams who get it. Senior forward Blake Young had mentioned at the teams post game press conference after their 4-1 defeat to UND, if given the opportunity to advance to the postseason, it would give UMD new life.

It was University of Notre Dame’s overtime goal against Ohio State University in the B1G 10 tournament championship that just barely propelled the Bulldogs into the NCAA tournament. UMD entered the field as the final at large bid and nudged out the University of Minnesota by .0001 PairWise points.

Now, rewind even further, it is January 11, the Bulldogs sit tied for last in the NCHC conference standings with Omaha. The Bulldogs would go on to rattle of six consecutive conference victories to become relevant again in the possibility of hosting in the first round of NCHC playoffs.

UMD head coach Scott Sandelin along with other members of the Bulldog roster credit the team’s turnaround to the holiday tournament UMD won at the end of December, the Ledyard Classic. The Bulldogs handled Yale University 5-0 the opening night and then took care of Dartmouth College, winning the championship game in a shootout.

The quality of opponents might not have been the greatest but it is how the Bulldogs won the weekend that is the remarkable part. Dawning an 18-man roster (17 on the second night as senior defenseman Nick McCormack served a one game suspension earned the night before) with five members of the team away the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior tournament, UMD was able to take care of business and gel together more as a team.

The 2017-18 campaign is a perfect example of the age old adage, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.