The No. 3-seeded Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs look to capture the first hockey NC in school history when they tilt with the Frozen Four's second seed, Michigan. Coach Scott Sandelin and some of his players talked about the upcoming battle Saturday.
Head Coach Scott Sandelin
On Michigan's play and goalie Shawn Hunwick's performance:
"Obviously, he was outstanding for them. I thought they played very well defensively. North Dakota's a team that, if you can get the lead, it doesn't make it easier, but I thought they did that and they really played very well defensively. When he needed to make a save, he was there. We've got to find a way to certainly challenge him a little bit more offensively, and find a way to beat him. He was good, he was very good."
On being able to study Michigan more on Thursday, considering that UMD was familiar with North Dakota:
"Truthfully, I watched the game from the hotel, and I was a fan. I thought it was a great game. It doesn't matter. Yeah, we've played North Dakota three times and we've only seen Michigan on some tape in the playoffs. When we break it down, we break it down both ways, and we'll focus on what we need to do and what their tendencies are today."
On Michigan's depth:
"Fortunately for us, we see a lot of teams with depth coming through our league, so that's a good thing. I thought Notre Dame had good depth, and you look at their numbers through their lines last night, I was very, very impressed. I'm not a big stat guy. Traditionally, I know how Michigan plays. They like to play an up-tempo game. They always get skill players. They always find guys that fit into their program and can play up and down the rink. They certainly have some guys that are good offensive players, but that's what you need. You need good balance, you need that depth. Sometimes, a lot of our teams play four lines through the year because we have that. At this time of the year, sometimes with the TV timeouts and all that, you don't always get an opportunity to do that. So we'll see how they're going too, but I'm sure they probably feel the same way. Again, a very good team, very well coached. It should be a heckuva game."
On Travis Oleksuk and seeing another Oleksuk in the program:
"For us, quite frankly, recruiting-wise, it was a very important 'get' for us. Obviously, it's great to have some alumni with the ties to UMD. Travis was our first alumni's kid to play for us, so that was important. To have an opportunity to recruit him and get him in our program, that was pretty special to our staff to have that opportunity. You see that a lot, where a dad has played there and kids follow him to the program. We had tried with Geno Guyer, because Pat played there a couple years, we didn't get him, and Harrington, we didn't get him. So we tried with a couple others, so it was kind of neat to get Travis. More importantly, he's a good hockey player and he has the good bloodlines, just like his dad. So he's been a great addition to our program."
On the learning curve, being back in the national championship game:
"It's scary, last night when we were up 4-2, I thought about being up 3-1 … I hate those negative-type thinkings. We talked about, last night, closing out the game … I think this team is similar, but yet different (from the 2004 team). They found ways to win, and I think every year is a little bit different. But for me, I was a little nervous when that thought crept into my head. It was the same thing in '04, when somebody had mentioned that we hadn't lost a lead in 27 games going into the third period that year, and sure enough, we did. So I'm glad we got that out of the way against Bemidji earlier in the (WCHA) Final Five."
On the ride the team has been on:
"Aside from early in the year when we were ranked No. 1, we've kind of gone under the radar a little bit. That's what happens when you have good teams in your league. North Dakota started to take off, Denver had a great year, Omaha had a great year, CC really started coming on at the end of the year, and obviously, all the teams throughout the country with the years that they had. So we kind of started sliding down and, I think to some degree, that's kind of how we are, maybe a little bit under the radar … Watching the selection show, there was a mention of who Union was playing, (and) our guys kind of got a laugh at that. And understandably, both Yale and Union had tremendous years, and we were playing out in their backyards. We were OK with that. We've been a good road team all year. It's just kind of how it's been … All those things kind fit in to what we are. We haven't been here a lot. We do have a strong tradition, we've had a lot of great players. When you're only in this Frozen Four for the fourth time, not a lot of people may know about you. Hopefully, they do now."
On raising the profile of the UMD program:
"I've had a vision since I've got there. I don't like to sit up here and talk about me. For me, it's all about the kids and the program first. When I came here, I left a pretty good program in North Dakota … I always felt that, growing up in Hibbing, Minn., and watching UMD, the players and playing against them, that I felt that this program could win. That's why I accepted that challenge to take the job. It's been some good years, and some not-so-good years. But we've got a great group of kids, we've had a lot of great kids. A lot of things have to go right, but my goal since I've got here was to try and get to this point, and hopefully have a chance to win. I felt this program should be there. It used to be there in the '80s. It's been certainly a lot of fun, certainly some challenges, but our vision is to have those expectations."
On the players playing like "rink rats" with confidence:
"A lot of those guys play in the 'AHL' after (practice) with the coaches. It's basically what it is, it's rink rats. They have pretty competitive games. Quite frankly, before the Notre Dame game, we had our two coaches run a mock power play unit with three other players. Derek (Plante) and Brett (Larson), those two are just like players. You've got to know those guy, they're just like kids. They want to keep playing."
What does the 'AHL' stand for?
"Afternoon Hockey League, after practice."
Kyle Schmidt (Sr., F)
On what Friday night will be like and biggest game of your life on Saturday:
"Starting two weeks ago every game was the biggest game of my life and Saturday will be the same. Tomorrow night will be huge and hopefully I got all the jitters out last night. I had a tough time falling asleep last night, hopefully that is out of the way and I can fall asleep tonight. Hopefully me and my roommates can calm each other down."
On dealing with injuries:
"Obviously anytime you miss more than a game it is a little frustrating and I was out for seven games in January. Fortunately I didn't miss any games this month. It is hard to get your confidence back especially when your hand might not feel the best but you just try to make the most of it. Playing with two great line mates definitely helps you get back into the flow of the game and so far so good."
Travis Oleksuk (Jr., F)
On decision to come to UMD
"It all started in midgets. But I came down for a visit and I loved the program. I came down and I really enjoyed the city too. They had an excellent coaching staff, knowing that my dad played before and him telling me all about it made an impact. It just showed that it was a place I had to come."
On how to approach the championship game
"Hopefully I can get some sleep tonight. Obviously we are going to approach it like any other game. This is what we have played all year for. This is the game where we wanted to be. This is what we talked about at the start of the year that our end goal would be to get here. I am going to try to get my sleep and just approach it like any other game."
On changing focus to Michigan
"I think for us we were happy about the win. We went back to the hotel and watched the whole game. After their game was over we knew we would be playing Michigan. We kind of went through what we thought we would have to do. That is kind of when we changed focus to the game on Saturday."
J.T. Brown (Fr., F)
On the start of the game
"We definitely started off a little bit shaky but I think after the first period we all got our feet underneath us. We worked a lot harder after the first period. I think that getting the first period out of the way helped us all around."
Mike Connolly (Jr., F)
On how the team is feeling going into the championship game:
"We're excited. Obviously we're going to have a big task. Michigan's a great team. They've knocked off three WCHA teams already, so we know how good they are and we're going to prepare the best we can for a good game."
On facing a hot goaltender in Michigan's Shawn Hunwick:
"Obviously he shut the door against North Dakota. He played a great game. He's aggressive and he challenges a lot, so we're going to look to get him moving side to side. The way he played against North Dakota [shows that] it's going to be tough. We got to get some pressure on him and take a lot of shots in front of the net."
On the atmosphere so far at the Frozen Four:
"The atmosphere was great. This is a beautiful building to play in. I think Saturday night is going to be fun. Hopefully all the seats are full and we're going to give [the fans] a good game."
Kenny Reiter (Jr., G)
Looking back on Thursday:
"Looking at it from period to period it wasn't the start I wanted, obviously, but just shows the resiliency of our team and we answered right away. I think our specials teams, power play and penalty kill, were huge."
On the five goal first period:
"This is the first time I've played in this event so it was special and there were a little bit of nerves. After the first period we settled down a bit. Our top guys were our top guys especially in the first period and the whole game."
On intensity in postseason compared to regular season:
"Just the experience. Going to try and take it all in today and then tomorrow just focus on the game."
Mike Montgomery (Sr., D)
On his career at Minnesota Duluth:
"When we got here we were kind of deep into the losing ways. The team and the program have come a long way and I'm just really glad I could be a part of it."
On the play of Kenny Reiter:
"I think everyone kind of stepped up after the first period. I think you could tell by our second period we played pretty well and Kenny came up with some big saves then and I think we just kept him in the game long enough where he could get that confidence and take it from there."
On the Bulldogs' power play:
"They move the puck around better than anybody I've ever played with. It's fun to watch. Those guys are really something special out there and I hope everyone enjoys watching them that's for sure."
Justin Faulk (Fr., D)
On his three assists in the semifinal:
"I think it's just a tribute to how the team's been playing. I couldn't have gotten any of those assists without help from our guys. Obviously a couple good goals there. I think it's great play by the team."
As a South St. Paul native, on playing the championship in St. Paul:
"It's just great. I couldn't ask for anywhere else for it to be. It's great for the program too, being in Minnesota just two and a half hours from our school. It's just exciting for us all that it's down here in Minnesota."
On the importance of his experience in juniors:
"It's helped me tremendously. I played a few big games last year. I played against a few colleges team too last year. Without that experience, I don't know if this year would have gone the way it has for me individually."
Justin Fontaine (Sr., F)
On his three assists in the semifinal:
"It was good to have a good game here in the championships on the power play. I thought me and Justin Faulk moved the puck well together up top and just allowed our low guys to make plays and score. It was good to see them all finish and get on the score sheet."
On going up against a hot goalie in Shawn Hunwick:
"Just try to get as much traffic as possible on him. He's a quick guy, but we've just got to go upstairs. He's good laterally, so we're going to have to get him moving and just get a lot of pucks in the net, and that's how we're going to have to beat him."
On how Minnesota Duluth plans to take advantage of the power play:
"Just keep doing the same things. I'm sure they're going to come a little harder than Notre Dame did at us, so we'll be ready for it. We've just got to move the puck quick and get shots to the net and bang home rebounds."
National Championship: UMD Pre-Game Quotes
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