Minnesota Duluth Eyes NCAA Championship Repeat Over Historic UMass Team

Defending NCAA champ Minnesota Duluth will look to hold off a historic UMass Minutemen team as the Bulldogs return to the championship game for a third straight season.

The Bulldogs fell by one goal to Denver in 2017, which was followed by an offseason in which 10 players departed, including four of their top five scorers.

But coach Scott Sandelin led a young, ambitious team right back into the championship in 2018 where they claimed the NCAA title. Sandelin’s commitment to building a strong program has been impressive as he’s steadily added to his 396-322-89 record.

It’s been all about resilience in Duluth and that resilience has been on display. After being swept by then-No. 1 St. Cloud State in its final series of the regular season, the team has pulled together to win seven straight, marching to the NCHC title and back into the NCAA championship game.

There’s no go-to game-changer for the 28-11-2 Bulldogs, who are largely a by-committee team. Teams without a bona-fide offensive star typically show it in overall offensive and that’s the case here, as their plus-51 goal differential (130 GF, 79 GA) doesn’t jump off of the page like UMass’ plus-71 (151 GF, 80 GA).

But resilience and a dedication to defense is what has carried them this far and Sandelin’s team is great at sticking to its game and taking care of its own zone. One of those defensemen is Dylan Samberg, an often-overlooked piece of the Bulldogs’ blue line.

Samberg isn’t the flashiest player in the offensive zone with just 19 points (7 G, 12 A) in 38 games, but the sophomore leads the Bulldogs with a plus-21 rating. Samberg has been a rock in front of netminder Hunter Shepard, who has played all but 16 minutes of the team’s 41 games.

It was defense that won the Bulldogs the 2018 NCAA championship and it’ll be defense again should they claim the 2019 title.

But nothing’s guaranteed, as an electric UMass team stands in the way during a historic season that has seen the Minutemen go 31-9-0. Coach Greg Carvel has created a winning program and is quickly turning his 53-58-4 record at UMass around with the immense talent on his roster.

That talent starts with defenseman Cale Makar, who has all but won the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in the NCAA. The sophomore leads the Minutemen with 49 points (16 G, 33 A) and has been the undeniable star of UMass’ impressive season.

That says a lot given the team’s three other 40-point players in Jacob Pritchard, Mitchell Chaffee, and John Leonard. The high-powered offense of the Minutemen will be the ultimate test for Duluth’s defense.

But the X-factor is forward Bobby Trivigno. The freshman has been a steady depth player and has nine points (6 G, 3 A) over his past nine games and was all over the place in Thursday’s win over Denver.

He’s buzzing and with the addition of Makar, elite scorers, the season-long ride all capped off with the OT thriller from Thursday, Duluth will have its hands full in the championship.

Don’t miss the Bulldogs and face off against the Minutemen in the championship game this Saturday in Buffalo at 8 PM ET.

Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter.

Q&A With NCHC Commissioner Josh Fenton About New Recruiting Guidelines

Shortly after a 20-person College Hockey Committee came up with new guidelines to curtail recruiting of pre-high schoolers, committee member and NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton spoke with FloHockey’s Tim Rappleye. Fenton was the driving force behind the committee’s two-year effort to stabilize a system that was clearly flawed by underage recruiting.

College Hockey Inc. Rolls Out New Recruiting Timeline

Last Friday, a much-needed proposal to restructure college hockey’s flawed recruiting environment was rolled out. An internal college hockey committee and the advocacy group College Hockey Inc. had spent two years trying to educate the relevant parties to the nuance of “verbal commitments” and “verbal agreements.” The most important part of their labors was revealed last week, presenting a new timeline to eliminate recruiting prospects who are still in middle school. 

2019 NHL Draft Class: USA Boasts Exciting NCAA Commits

The 2018-19 U.S. National Team Development Program, which highlights early mock drafts for the 2019 NHL Draft and college commitments, projects an extra-exciting 2019-20 NCAA season.

Men's Regional Sites Announced For 2020 & 2021

The regional sites for 2020 and 2021 have been announced. 

Hockey East Secures A Sweep Of College Hockey's Major Awards.

UMass' Cale Makar, who recently joined Colorado Avalanche for their playoff run, became the school's first Hobey Baker Award winner in addition to a bevy of other honors.

Filip Larsson One-And-Done Following Freshman Season At Denver

After leading the Denver Pioneers to a resurgent season, freshman goaltender Filip Larsson inked a three-year, entry-level contract with the Detroit Red Wings on Monday, forgoing his last three years with the program. 

Cale Makar Wastes No Time Making NHL History

Add another accolade to Cale Makar’s resume. 

2019 Hobey Baker Award Winner: Cale Makar, UMass


It was no question that Cale Makar would be taking this year’s Hobey Baker Memorial Award home with him. 

Cale Makar's Colossal Season Continues With Colorado

After leading the UMass Minutemen to a historic season, defenseman Cale Makar signed an entry-level contract with the Colorado Avalanche, prepping him for imminent action in Colorado’s playoff series with the Calgary Flames.

Providence Looks Back At Incredible 2019 Season

BUFFALO, N.Y. — For even the most ardent supporters of the Providence Friars men’s hockey program, it would be easy to have been a bit too close to the forest to see the trees on Thursday night.