BUFFALO, N.Y. — For seven months, through 41 games, week in and week out, Minnesota Duluth coach Scott Sandelin has been harping on his team about putting together a complete 60-minute performance.
Well, was that what you were looking for Saturday, Mr. Sandelin?
“You’re damn right it was,” Sandelin said with a giant smile outside the locker room of the Buffalo Sabres following a 3-0 dismantling of Massachusetts in the NCAA championship game at KeyBank Center.
The Bulldogs outshot the Minutemen 31-18, out-attempted them 69-44 and Grade-A scoring chances were 9-2 in favor of UMD, with UMass failing to get any legitimate scoring chances in the third period.
UMass’ 18 shots on goal tied for the second-fewest by a team in a national championship game.
“I told them before, they hadn’t played their best game, at least in this tournament,” Sandelin said. “Tonight they did; they were good. They were good right from the drop of the puck.”
UMD was especially dominant on the penalty kill, holding UMass 0-for-4 in the championship two days after the Minutemen torched Denver on the power play, finishing 3-for-5 — scoring twice 18 seconds apart on a major penalty in the first — en route to a 4-3 overtime victory.
Even after getting shut out by UMD, UMass’ power play finishes 2018-19 as the best in the nation at 28.5 percent. It looked nothing like that Saturday, however, as the Minutemen were left chasing the puck 200 feet up and down the ice, getting just three power-play shots on UMD junior goaltender Hunter Shepard.
“They pressured us really hard,” said UMass sophomore defenseman Cale Makar, the Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner who on Sunday signed with the Colorado Avalanche. UMD held Makar to three shots on goal. “We bobbled the puck a little bit, but we just didn’t make plays and couldn’t get the puck off the half wall and get it up to the middle part of the ice.”
Bulldogs penalty killers said Saturday they watched minimal film on the UMass power play in the leadup to the national championship. It was just a matter of willpower, they said.
“Just grit, baby, just grit,” said UMD junior defenseman Nick Wolff, a member of a UMD penalty kill that finished the season 10th nationally at 85.7 percent. “We looked at two films, three films before the practice and game. That’s what our penalty kill is. When we were 92, 93 percent, that’s what our penalty kill did. We just got back to that. They had the top power play in the nation and we shut them down.”