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From underdogs, to National Champions

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Minnesota Duluth received their National Championship rings Thursday

It’s crazy to think it has almost been 4 months since UMD was on top of the college hockey world. In front of 18,303 fans at Xcel Energy Center, Minnesota Duluth did the unthinkable. From barely even getting into the 16 seed postseason for a trip to the National Championship, UMD claimed it’s second ever National Championship, (first back in 2011) in the State of Hockey.

After coming one game short in 2017 falling to Denver 3-2 at the United Center, the Bulldogs had some redemption coming into the 2018 season and trying to get back to the National Championship knowing it would be a pro Bulldog crowd.

Their first contest on the ‘Road to St. Paul’ came against Minnesota State-Mankato. Falling behind 2-0 to the Mavericks just 7 minutes into the game, the Bulldogs tied it up, and in overtime Parker Mackay won it just 2:28 into sudden death. However, the Bulldogs thought they won it just a minute into the game, but they had a goal disallowed because of goalie interference. This time, Mackay made sure it counted and they were moving on to the next round.

In the West Region Final against Air Force, UMD used two 1st period goals just three minutes apart to survive and advance. Joey Anderson and then Nick Wolff were the goal scorers for UMD while Hunter Shepard stood ground between the posts to push the Bulldogs to the National Semi-Finals to take on the Buckeyes of Ohio State who were 1 of 3 Big Ten programs to make the tournament.

The Bulldogs once again used two 1st period goals and were able to hang on to advance to back-to-back National Championship games, this time hoping for a different result. The Bulldogs jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead just 3 minutes into the game thanks to goals from Louie Roehl and Jared Thomas. Once again Hunter Shepard did more than enough between the pipes to send the Bulldogs, and their faithful home happy. Although it’s not as tough as other sports on the D1 level, with hockey only having 60 hockey programs, it still is pretty remarkable the Bulldogs were able to head back for a shot at the National Championship.

A chance to win a National Championship. It’s what every hockey player dreams about growing up. The chance to win it all with the brothers they’ve been so close with for so long. Standing in their way of their second National Championship was arguably the best team all year in college hockey. Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish came into the game at 28-9, a Big Ten Regular Season and Tournament Championship in just their first year in the Big Ten after coming over from the Hockey East Conference. For the third game in a row, the Bulldogs once again jumped out to a 2-0 lead after 1 thanks to goals from Jared Thomas and Karson Kuhlman and the rest was history.

On Thursday, the Bulldogs received their much anticipated 2018 National Championship rings. To say they look sick is an understatement. These rings look marvelous. Eye candy.

Back-to-back National Champions? The title defense begins October 6th against arch-rival Minnesota at Amsoil Arena in Duluth, MN. For the full 2018-2019 UMD Bulldog schedule, here it is.