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April 13, 2019
Buffalo, New York
Minnesota Duluth-3, Massachusetts-0
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with some opening thoughts from Coach Sandelin.
SCOTT SANDELIN: Wow, pretty special right now. I want to congratulate UMass. They had a great year. Going into the game, talking to our team, hopefully they'll echo the same thought, I just said, I don't think we played our best game tonight. We knew we had to play a better hockey game, one of our best to beat a very good team.
I thought our guys from start to finish were on it. Still was hard, but we got the first goal, got better. I thought our penalty kill, again, was outstanding. Shep, again, great when he needed to be. Just a real team effort.
Couldn't be more proud of this group. They went through some different challenges this year. They really grew together as a team. I'm just really excited for them to be national champions again.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the players.
Q. Mikey, can you take us through your goal. At the faceoff you got pushed out of the zone, UMass lost you, you walked down Bradway.
MIKEY ANDERSON: Off the draw, puck came out. He i just tried to throw it back down low because I saw him coming out. And he finished his hit. It was a good hit by him. I fell back. I think he went in the zone, kind of realized I was going to be out of the play.
Parker was coming up the boards. He made a great play through the middle. I just tried to find a hole. Parker connected. I just had to put it upstairs.
Q. Parker, how meaningful is this to wrap up your career at Minnesota Duluth with consecutive championships and to go out with essentially the winning goal and big assist?
PARKER MACKAY: Yeah, it's incredible, obviously. Obviously you can't write it any better than that. So fortunate to be able to make the regionals all four years, let alone three Frozen Fours, winning two national championships. So happy to do it with some incredible friends in there.
Again, the coaching staff, to have the coaching staff that I had for four years, it's no shock that we were here for three times in a row. I'm looking forward to obviously watching this group in the future.
Q. What is it like to play in the NCHC, you've gone to three national championship games, once against Denver, how does that prepare you to get to this point and succeed at this level?
HUNTER SHEPARD: There's not really any weekends off in that league. There's no bottom feeders. Anybody can beat anybody on any night. You're battle-tested when you get to the end of the year. I think that's really helped our team be built for the playoffs, playing such a tough schedule. I think we had the toughest schedule in the country this year. When you can be at the top of that league, put together the seasons we have the last couple years, it's a testament to our coaching staff and our players in our locker room.
PARKER MACKAY: Yeah, reiterate that a little bit. There's no off weekends. There's no off nights. It's hard to get a sweep in that league. You obviously are super privileged to do that. If you can get a run together in that league, it's unbelievable.
I think it's just been an unbelievable league for the four years I've been here. They really have put theirselves on the map since the start honestly. Yeah, they prepare you so well for the playoffs I think because you're constantly going, playing playoff hockey for the entire year it seems like, so...
THE MODERATOR: Coach, a good league?
SCOTT SANDELIN: It's a good league (smiling).
Q. Hunter and Parker, talk about what Parker has meant to this team as a captain, and talk about what Hunter has meant to this team in going 8-0 in the NCAA tournament.
HUNTER SHEPARD: I mean, when Coach Sandelin recruits guys that he wants to set an example for our program, he recruits guys like Parker Mackay. Without him, I don't think we would be here, where we are this year.
When you have a leader like that in the locker room, to bring the younger guys along, he scores such big goals for us, he's never afraid to step up and be accountable for himself first before he points a finger at others. That's the reason we've been here the last three years. We've had leaders in that locker room that know how to manage players and just exude what the program means.
PARKER MACKAY: I've been saying it to a lot of media members. Sheppy has been our brick wall all season long. He was our most consistent player. I think he was our most competitive player. Again, I could say the same thing: I don't think we are even close to where we are without him.
He's come in these last two seasons and been unbelievable. He doesn't talk too loud or say too much when he's at the rink, but once he's on the ice, he's an absolute competitor and warrior. You want to go to war like that each and every day when you know how hard he's battling.
Q. Coach, talk about the three national championships. The list of coaches that have won three, among the all-time greats. Talk about being able to join that club there.
SCOTT SANDELIN: I've had great players. I've had a great coaching staff and support staff, which makes my job easy. I'm very fortunate. We recruit good kids that want to come to Duluth and buy into what we're all about.
This year was just the same type of year. We lost a real good leader. We followed it up with another good leader. Those guys really showed me the way. We tried to build things there. We know it's not easy.
I'm blessed to be around a lot of great people. Coaches do get the credit, but there's a lot of people that do a lot of work besides myself, assistant coaches, trainers, strength people. We've got some team managers.
At the end of the day, the players go out and play. I'm just fortunate that they listen. It's been pretty special. Again, I never take anything for granted because in this game it can change. I just want to enjoy it with these guys. I know they'll enjoy it the rest of their lives.
Q. Hunter, with playing in back-to-back national championship games, as a goalie, what do you take from your preparation going into last year's championship into this one? Was it any different? Did you learn anything from last year?
HUNTER SHEPARD: I think besides a few minor tweaks, I've been preparing the same way for every game since I was about 14 years old. I don't think I'll change anything at this point.
THE MODERATOR: Hunter, are you happy?
HUNTER SHEPARD: A little bit (smiling).
THE MODERATOR: Let's let the players go celebrate. Congratulations on a great year.
We'll continue with questions for Coach Sandelin.
Q. You said you wanted a fast start to this game. You won the first six faceoffs, had the first seven shots. Before UMass had a shot, you had a goal. Talk about the fast start, first five minutes.
SCOTT SANDELIN: Yeah, it was great. Again, I said earlier, we needed to play a better game. I still think our team going into tonight hadn't played their best game. You don't always have to play a perfect game. We did really emphasize again the starts. We do all the time.
It's funny, sometimes I think the first games of these tournaments are the most difficult. Once you play a game, you're a little more into it. When you're at this stage, even the regional is the same way. Once you win that, you're playing the next night, guys are a little more into it. Here you get to play for the biggest prize. Guys were certainly ready.
Again, I think it goes into the room. The guys, Parker and our captains, the guys that have been here making sure guys were really dialed in. We set a little game plan. They followed it. It carried over through the whole game. I thought we played a real good hockey game tonight.
Q. What has Parker meant to this team? What has this run of three championship runs, what has it meant for this program?
SCOTT SANDELIN: The first part is easy. He's meant a lot. He has been an unbelievable leader for us. We knew that when we recruited him. He had leadership qualities when he came out of junior hockey. When you're around him, we knew before he left, he was probably going to be a captain. He was an assistant captain lat yeast under Karson Kuhlman. Probably learned some things there. But got to take over this program, him and Billy Exell and Nick Wolff. Obviously we had a few talks during the year. We always share frustrations, different challenges, how to get through it.
Again, this is the first year he played without missing any games or getting hurt. He had an unbelievable game for us. Like Shep said, he scored big goals for us. I thought his play in the tournament, I thought his play all year was good, but I thought he really was good in the last month, month and a half. You need that out of those guys. I mean, that's a great example to set for your players, the other guys.
He's meant an awful lot. Couldn't be happier for him to go out. You're always happy for the seniors, for sure, to win their last game. Hopefully that last game is like it was tonight.
It's meant a lot to our program. It's hard to do. It's hard to do. I'm going to keep saying it. We never take it for granted. You really enjoy it because you don't know when you're going to get that opportunity again. We've been very fortunate here to get on a little bit of a run and be a part of this three times.
We'll just enjoy it and look at next year. Hopefully we can get back here.
Q. You probably remember the WCHA run last decade with the national titles. Does this compare for the NCHC being a part of this to anything you might remember? To be a part of the NCHC's run of national championships, talk a little bit about what that means to you.
SCOTT SANDELIN: We got a couple more to catch up to that run, right?
No, I remember that run. It was pretty unique. I mean, it was a strong conference. I mean, this one, like the guys alluded to, it's been a lot of fun to be a part of. It's certainly challenging. Obviously when we got in it, there were some teams we were more familiar with. Western and Miami were from the CCHA.
The players get excited about it. Like the guys said, it's tough every weekend. I think the second half in our league is just unbelievably hard. I think you see some different styles. I thought when I watched UMass on tape, they reminded me a little bit of St. Cloud in some ways. We had seen that. Plus the non-conference schedule we play.
It's been a lot of fun. Hopefully we can keep doing it. There's a lot of people that have done a lot of work to make our league what it is. I'm just glad we can represent it and keep it in our league.
Q. Each season presents a different set of challenges. Talk about the challenges this team had to go through to repeat.
SCOTT SANDELIN: I think the number one thing, Parker would know because we had a lot of talks about this, just about how hungry guys are going to be. You never know what goes through kids' heads. Sometimes the complacency. I'm not a complacent guy. We were hard on those kids this year, that was plan going in. I hope it didn't come to fruition because sometimes they'll tune you out, too.
I just don't want guys to be satisfied. We knew going into the year that we had a lot of good parts. You return your starting goalie, your whole D corps, we had good depth up front. Yeah, we lost some guys, which teams do, but we felt we had some good freshmen coming in. We felt we had a lot of good parts. You never know how they're going to come back. Are they really super motivated to get back there?
I think that was probably the biggest challenge, trying to read them. I think deep down they were. They had a funny way of showing it because they're really quiet, which quite frankly pissed me off sometimes, I'm not going to lie. But it was fun. That's the fun challenges that you got to go through.
We had some adversity. We started off 0-1-1, then we rattled off some wins. Guys thought it was going to be easy again. We kind of finished 3-4-1. The second half we went through a lot of splits. Our league in the second half is a war, like I said. We got swept at the end of the year by St. Cloud, but we came out of it feeling like we were a better hockey team. From that point on we didn't lose.
We tried to spin that into a positive, too. But, I mean, every team goes through it. I think that was the biggest concern as a coaching staff we had, was how motivated. The year before we lost in Chicago to Denver. Those guys coming back were really motivated to get back. Sometimes guys get satisfied.
It was a little bit of that all year.
Q. Nick Wolff was just saying that Mike Anderson is a great guy, great teammate on and off the ice. What stands out to you about Mike?
SCOTT SANDELIN: Number one, he's a very intelligent player, plays with a lot of poise. He's very confident. He's very consistent. I thought he was if not our most consistent defenseman this year. I had the pleasure of coaching him at the world juniors, too. It was a nice problem to have, him and Dylan, two guys I trust.
Mikey has continued to develop. He has a purpose every time he comes to the rink. He wants to become a better player. He trains. He works on his game. He does all the things that you want every player to do on a regular basis.
There's a purpose every time he comes. He enjoys coming to the rink. He enjoys playing the game. He enjoys working on his game to get better. I can't say enough. He's had an unbelievable year. Obviously big goal tonight. He has got a great future ahead of him. Hopefully it's not soon (laughter).
Q. Talk about the ability to win those battles on the wall tonight. The shutdown, according to the stats, UMass didn't have a grade A chance in the third period.
SCOTT SANDELIN: Yeah, that was the game plan. You know what, we call it our ground game, get it going. When we do that, we're a more effective team. Sometimes I think when we don't do that, we turn more pucks over or we look to make plays instead of just kind of knowing. We just wanted to play hard on the walls. We wanted to make it harder on their team. For the most part we did a good job with that.
Defensively, obviously the second goal was a big goal. You get that feeling, we've been in that situation where we've been a pretty good shutdown team in the third period. Obviously we took some penalties that could have negated that. But our killers were outstanding all night. We didn't let them really get going.
But I think guys just had that feeling. We didn't want to take our foot off the gas. We wanted to keep doing what we'd been doing.
Like I said, tonight was probably one of our best games we played for sure in the NCAA tournament, probably from our league tournament as well. It couldn't have come at a better time.
THE MODERATOR: What did you say when the final buzzer went? Did you say anything? What did you do.
SCOTT SANDELIN: I don't think I said anything.
THE MODERATOR: Speechless.
SCOTT SANDELIN: I shook a couple hands (smiling).
Q. With the success comes a challenge like Mikey, you have to recruit your own players. How concerned are you about that? Does it make it harder or easier to sell it when you're back-to-back champions?
SCOTT SANDELIN: It's always hard. It's the worst day, right? You spend all year with guys... But that's what we all go through. We'll worry about that later.
I always say I think I'm just going to start going to Arizona, Florida, they call me if they're leaving, because I don't want to try to talk them out of it. If they're ready, they're ready. We'd obviously love to have kids stay as long as they can. But there's what they're playing for, too.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, congratulations. Thanks very much.
SCOTT SANDELIN: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports