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April 11, 2019

Scott Sandelin

Billy Exell

Justin Richards

Buffalo, New York

Minnesota Duluth-4, Providence-1

SCOTT SANDELIN: Obviously Billy got a huge goal for us. Our penalty kill was outstanding on that five-on-three and five-on-four, which really gave us a shot in the arm. But couldn't be more proud of our team. Again, just looking forward to playing on Saturday.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the players.

Q. Justin, we had you winning three of the four draws during the five-on-three. How critical was getting that possession and winning those draws?
JUSTIN RICHARDS: Yeah, any time when you get a faceoff win, it's advantageous because you start with the puck.

I mean other than the penalty kill it's that much more important because you can get the clear right away, kill off maybe 20, 25 seconds, whereas they start off with the puck in zone, get set up, so...

Q. Billy, how did you feel this team didn't get down on itself after having two goals negated? What did you see as you were driving to the net, seeing how you were able to chip that puck in?
BILLY EXELL: Well, yeah, any time you get a goal disallowed, you don't want to give them momentum again. You think you're getting the momentum. You just have to have a good shift after that, stick with it.

I mean, in that goal, I just seen Kobe had the puck at the blueline there. I decided just to go to the net. I knew he was going to shoot. The rebound came to me and happened to go in.

Q. Billy, you took a penalty that was going to make it the five-on-three. You have the potential to be the GOAT, you end up the game winner.
BILLY EXELL: That penalty, I just seen their guy kind of break into the net. I was kind of going to do anything I could to stop him, not let that shot get off. Obviously you don't want to let them get out by a two-man advantage there.

In the box, Tanner and I were stressing a little bit. We were yelling even though they couldn't probably hear us. We thought our penalty kill did a great job of killing that off.

THE MODERATOR: Also great to have the potential to be the GOAT. Worked out well (laughter).

Q. Why was killing off that five-on-three vital, especially against a team with a potent power play?
JUSTIN RICHARDS: I mean, we did a lot of video this week on their power play. We knew how dangerous they were. So, I mean, like when we got that five-on-three, we knew this could be the turning point of the game. We ended up killing it off. I think we got a ton of momentum off that.

Bill got his goal pretty quickly after that. We sealed the game from there.

Q. Justin, what is it like to be repeating, to be succeeding at a time where it's been very difficult for any team to make it back to the championship game?
JUSTIN RICHARDS: I mean, it just shows I think a lot of it comes down to experience. For some guys, this is their third Frozen Four, third national championship in a row. We've learned how to win. Last year every game in the tournament was a one-goal game. Pretty much every game so far has been a one-goal game with some empty nets.

We know how to win. I think that experience came into play tonight.

Q. Billy, can you reflect on your journey through your four seasons here. You didn't play a lot your freshman year. Haven't scored a ton of goals.
BILLY EXELL: Yeah, I mean, throughout the four years that I've been here, obviously the first year I didn't get a ton of playing time. Tried to earn a spot the next year, really develop a role that I think I can fill and help the team.

I think I've been doing that, no matter who I've been playing with over the last three years. I think I've done a pretty good job with that role. That's the role I want to continue to do going into this last game here.

Q. Justin, can you talk about Billy as a senior leader that you look up to, a guy who has had to go take a lesser role outside of the limelight?
JUSTIN RICHARDS: Yeah, I mean, I think Bill has come up pretty huge a bunch of times this year with some big goals. I mean, like it's awesome having an older guy playing the role he plays, to come up with some big goals like that. He's on the penalty kill. He has a pretty important role on this team. So are the other seniors.

It's really awesome to see.

Q. Justin, you obviously know a good coach when you see one, with your dad being such a good coach. Can you tell me what makes your coach as successful as he has been, whether or not you think he might one day be able to coach in the NHL, if that day is coming soon.
JUSTIN RICHARDS: I wouldn't say anything bad about him (smiling).

SCOTT SANDELIN: You can, we got honesty.

JUSTIN RICHARDS: No, I mean, everything Sandy does is for the team, for every guy in that locker room, it's for the program. Everything he does is for us. He loves us. That's why he's such a good coach, because everyone wants to play for him.

I mean, I think that, yeah, he for sure could have potential to make it.

SCOTT SANDELIN: I like what I'm doing here right now. This is fun (smiling).

JUSTIN RICHARDS: But, yeah, like I said, everyone loves playing for him because he loves everyone in that room, would do anything for them.

THE MODERATOR: We'll let you guys go. Congratulations. We'll continue with questions for Coach Sandelin.

Q. Can you reflect on Billy's journey to this game, his four years, what he came from, so forth.
SCOTT SANDELIN: Yeah, I mean, number one, we got him, he was playing in the North American League in Wilderness. Had a really good year. We got him late. We got him on lower money, but we loved his speed, his energy. He had a really good year offensively.

But it's kind of how our team is built. We've got a lot of guys probably that could be higher up, if you want. If you look at our team, we're built with balance. We have been for a lot of years. Some years the top lines might be a little more defined. Every guy on our team has an importance and a role. Billy has turned into a real good penalty killer for us because of his speed. He creates a lot of things through his speed.

Again, I'm not a big on offensive numbers, looking at that, because every player has a value on our team. I think he's done a really good job with leadership. He kind of keeps the guys loose in the room, too.

But he's probably one of our hardest workers, and has been for four years. He scored a big goal for us in the NCHC championship game to tie it. You love it when those guys step up, especially your seniors, especially your leaders, to create those moments.

His value, especially the last two and a half years for sure, has been really important to our team. So it's been fun to watch.

Q. Does this ever get old?
SCOTT SANDELIN: No. But I know it's hard. It's extremely difficult. Tonight's game was a very, very hard hockey game. I can't say enough about our players. I think for me I'm so excited for them to have the opportunity again. You're always excited for your seniors to play in the last game of the year, hopefully have a chance to win that game.

It's a great learning experience for our young players, our younger players. More importantly it's tremendous for our program, our university, to be in these positions.

I've said it a number of times: I personally don't ever take them for granted. I don't want our players to. I want them to really enjoy it and relish it. Like I said, we're really looking forward to having a chance to play on Saturday.

Q. The faceoffs, they were a big part of that five-on-three kill. All game that was a strength of your team. How important was that in tonight's game?
SCOTT SANDELIN: It's always important, you know that. I think we did a good job. I think it ended up 40 to 22 in our favor. Those that we won on that are even more critical because it gave us an opportunity to get the puck down the rink. I think they're important any time because, like you mentioned, it's possession. Certainly when you can do that on a power play or a penalty kill, obviously power play you're not chasing it, and if you get it on the penalty kill, you can make them chase it, get it down.

He's been one of our best faceoff guys for two years. Try to get him out there as much as I could to take the draws. He played a lot of minutes on that PK, as did Parker. You go with your best guys. He did a great job, as did all of them.

What can you say? Got a little luck, got some saves, huge blocks by a couple guys. Just a big momentum swing.

Q. It's been well-documented this would be your third straight national championship game, if you're fortunate enough to win two in a row. Does it ever get to the point where maybe you've accomplished everything you can at this level? You know as well as everyone, there's a lot of coaching opportunities in the NHL this summer. Is that something you're considering or would like to pursue?
SCOTT SANDELIN: At this minute right now, all I'm worried about is who we're playing on Saturday. You know what, I have a great job. You know what, if someday that ever pops up, I'll look at it, for sure. Right now I'm in a great situation. I've got a great group of players. We're playing for a national championship on Saturday.

Q. Obviously the five-on-three kill was big. Talk, if you will, about this team, what they've been through the last couple of years. Is that unflappability in getting through that kill, something that's been building to that moment?
SCOTT SANDELIN: I think it all helps, there's no question. I can tell you I was nervous as hell when they got the five-on-three the way their power play was. It's an outstanding power play. You saw their first goal. Didn't take them long. It was just pucks on net. They know where that backside guy is. To be able to do that at that time of the game was a big-time moment. Those are changing turning points in games.

Whether we went on to win that, I was just thrilled to get out of there still tied. I think our group has been in a lot of tough games, some big games. They've learned how to win some of those games. Some of our older guys didn't win in the final game in '16 or '17. So they've experienced that, too.

I think all those things, you know, make you better. Doesn't guarantee anything. But it certainly helps. I think we've had really strong leadership in our room. Those guys calm guys down, just our demeanor I think has been pretty good. A lot of it starts with our older guys and our captains.

Hopefully I'm not too wired up all the time. But I think we all kind of share the same thing. There's a strong belief in each other, a trust level that you develop over the course of a year. It's never easy. It doesn't always happen right away. This group, sometimes I didn't know if it was there. They've really proven it here when it's crunch time. That's why I'm really excited for them and I'm really proud of them.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, thanks very much.


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