“Who hands out broccoli pizza? What is this?”
The first words I hear when entering the dressing room of the NCAA Division 1 men’s hockey champions. The Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs pulled off back to back titles, but can’t get a proper pizza delivered. I ask Tampa Bay Lightning prospect his preference, pepperoni or broccoli. He doesn’t hesitate before selecting the traditional pie.
You’ve now made it official, a championship in all of your rookie years.
Yeah. Yeah. I’m in shock.
Is this going to get you straight A’s the rest of the year?
[laughs] Man, I hope so.
The crowd wasn’t on your side this time, though, eh?
It was fun, I mean, any big crowd is great if they’re into it. Even if they’re not on your side, the atmosphere is still great. This is all just so awesome.
Is this rookie success going to carry over to the next level?
Oh yeah, I hope so.
The UMD Bulldogs came into the Keybank Arena in Buffalo making their third appearance and looking for their second straight Division 1 title. After losing to Denver in 2017, the Bulldogs defeated Notre Dame 2-1 last year and now faced a Frozen Four newcomer in the University of Massachusetts, and brushed them off easily with a 3-0 victory.
Cole Koepke made yet another finals appearance in his rookie season, and almost scored twice as the Bulldogs defeated Providence 4-1 in the semi-finals. The energy ahead of puck drop was huge, with the UMD band beginning to play an hour ahead of game time, and fans filing in early to make sure they had their seats nice and warm for the start of play.
That was the warmest welcome the Bulldogs would receive as the arena was filled with U-Mass fans who booed UMD’s warm up intro heartily and filled the rink with “Let’s Go U-Mass” chants for an hour until puck drop.
Koepke made it to the starting line for the championship game, showing how much the freshman means to the team. He has a few shifts in the first few minutes, which are almost entirely spent in the U-Mass zone. The Bulldogs get the man advantage after Marc Del Gaizo on U-Mass is called for tripping. The Bulldogs score with the man advantage to make it 1-0 early on in the final.
After the goal, U-Mass put pressure on the net and trap the Bulldogs in their own zone, catching every clearing attempt, forcing Hunter Sheppard to make some big saves.
When play gets back down to the U-Mass Zone, Koepke gets plenty of net front time, but gets hauled down by Jake McLaughlin with no call.
Further into the game the Bulldogs clear the puck from their zone and Koepke follows Justin Richards into the offensive zone on a two on one, but Richards loses the puck before he can pass.
The Bulldogs continue to hold onto the balance of power in this game, and halfway through the period lead U-Mass in shots 9-2.
U-Mass gets their first power play of the game 13 minutes in when Scott Perunovich gets call for holding, and this is big since almost all of the goals in their semi-final game came with the man advantage. It won’t come this time as UMD doesn’t give them much space to work with.
As the first period is winding down, U-Mass forward Jake Gaudet hits Peter Krieger and gets two minutes for incidental head contact, giving the Bulldogs a power play as the clock ticks down. UMD isn’t able to score before the period ends, and the score after twenty is 1-0 UMD.
The Minutemen kill off the penalty at the start of the second period, and despite a few good chances from both sides, no one is able to score in the first half of the period, despite two breakaways for the Bulldogs.
Despite controlling the puck and the game for most of the period, the Bulldogs struggle to get another one past Filip Lindberg. They more than doubled the Minutemen in shots, and takes until their 24th shot to get a second goal. As Cole Koepke screens the goalie, Mikey Anderson scores the second goal of the game to put the Bulldogs up 2-0.
Minutes after that UMD forward Noah Cates gets called for a hit to the head against Cale Makar, and gives U-Mass another power play.
The Bulldogs easily kill off the penalty, and with 18 seconds left in the period, Makar leans into a hit on Cole Koepke and gets two minutes himself.
The second period ends and gives the Bulldogs 1:42 of a power play to finish off in the third. After two it’s 2-0 UMD and shots are 25-12 in the Bulldogs favour.
The third period begins with U-Mass forward Niko Hildenbrand coming into the Bulldogs zone one on two, but isn’t able to get a decent shot at net. The power play ends with that one chance, and the Bulldogs defending well.
In this game, Cole Koepke plays the position high up while four Bulldogs hang back playing defense. He’s also had some power play and penalty kill time. A good all around game in the final for the Lightning prospect.
U-Mass gets another power play after Kobe Roth gets an elbowing penalty. U-Mass is limited to shots from the outside, as the UMD penalty kill won’t let anything through, or give U-Mass any chances to set up, and the penalty expires with UMD still up 2-0.
Koepke gets a wide open chance to make it 3-0, but Lindberg gets the pads on it and Justin Richards misses the rebound on an empty net.
The Bulldogs get sloppy at the five minute mark of the period, when Peter Krieger grabs U-Mass’s Cale Makar by the face and drags him to the ice for a holding penalty.
Just as the penalty expires, UMD gets the puck down to the U-Mass net and gets it past Lindberg on an odd angle.
Kurt Keates gets frustrated and takes a holding penalty with less than two minutes to go, giving the Bulldogs a power play to end the game. UMD won’t score, but uses their man advantage to keep the Minutemen at bay as the clock counts down to their second national title in two years.
The UMD Bulldogs defeat the U-Mass Minutemen 3-0 for the NCAA Division 1 Championship.