Minn. Duluth wins hockey title

Published 8:57 am Monday, April 11, 2011

ST. PAUL — Minnesota Duluth’s players recently decided to dye their hair blond.

Everyone except Kyle Schmidt, who had the getting-married alibi to abstain from the not-so-fashionable exercise in team bonding.

The finish was fitting, then, when Schmidt whisked in the winning goal 3:22 into overtime to give the Bulldogs a 3-2 victory over Michigan on Saturday night for the first national championship in the program’s 50-year history.

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Coach Scott Sandelin wryly prodded Schmidt to say yes when asked if sitting out the ritual was the secret.

“Blond hair or just the tips, either way, I think I would’ve buried that one and luckily I did,” Schmidt said.

This was the 15th overtime game this season for the Bulldogs.

“I didn’t really do a whole lot. My linemates were working their butts off there in the corner. Luckily it was a gimme because I was probably too nervous to bury anything else,” said Schmidt, a senior from Hermantown, near Duluth. “Saw it go in and just started skating for the other end. It was amazing.”

Travis Oleksuk pulled Wolverines goalie Shawn Hunwick to the side and, from behind the net, fed Schmidt for a blink-of-the-eye tap-in to hand Michigan coach Red Berenson his first loss in a championship game.

“I just didn’t get over across in time,” Hunwick said.

Oleksuk and Max Tardy had second-period goals for Minnesota Duluth (26-10-6), which hadn’t played for the championship since losing in four overtimes to Bowling Green in 1984.

“We know what to do to get it done,” said forward J.T. Brown, picked as the tournament’s most outstanding player.

This has been quite the school year at UMD on the hill above Lake Superior, just a 2½-hour drive north from the Xcel Energy Center, with the football team winning the Division II championship. Hockey is the time-worn way to endure those long, harsh winters, and this trophy was a long time coming for a team that has been in the University of Minnesota’s shadow for decades.

“It’s been a long time coming for them,” Berenson said. “They’ve got a good coaching staff, and they’ve got a good team. They’re a better team than we thought they were all year.”

Ben Winnett and Jeff Rohrkemper scored for Michigan (29-11-4), which fell to 9-3 in title games. The Wolverines still have the NCAA record of nine, with two of those under Berenson.

“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime gone in the blink of an eye,” Rohrkemper said.

The Bulldogs handed the Wolverines just their second loss all season when scoring the game’s first goal (22-2-3).