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BC-HKC--Frozen Four,1st Ld-Writethru

April 14, 2019
AP Hockey Writer

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Goalie Hunter Shepard can’t imagine how Minnesota Duluth could have defended its national college hockey title without captain Parker Mackay.

“Without him, I don’t think we would be where we are this year,” Shepard said about the senior forward.

Mackay, seated proudly at the podium, could say the same thing about Shepard.

Mackay had a goal and an assist, and Shepard stopped 18 shots in leading Minnesota Duluth to a 3-0 win over Massachusetts on Saturday night.

The Bulldogs (29-11-2) became the ninth school to successfully defend a title, and first since Denver in 2004 and ’05. It’s the third championship for Minnesota Duluth, which beat Denver in the Frozen Four final a year ago and also won in 2011.

Shepard had his seventh shutout of the season and nation-leading 29th victory, improving his NCAA Tournament record to 8-0.

“Shepy’s been our brick wall all season long. He was our most consistent player,” Mackay said about the junior goalie. “I don’t think we are even close to where we are without him.”

Mikey Anderson had a goal and two assists. Noah Cates scored with 2:42 remaining to seal the victory for the Bulldogs, who were making their third consecutive appearance in the final, dating to a 3-2 loss to Denver in 2017.

The Bulldogs’ experience on the big stage proved to be an edge over a young UMass opponent. The Minutemen (31-10) were making their first appearance in the championship game and in just the second tournament berth in school history.

UMass eclipsed its previous single-season-best win total of 21 in 2007, while also being two years removed from a five-win finish in coach Greg Carvel’s first season.

The game could potentially be the final one at UMass for Bulldogs sophomore defenseman Cale Makar. The Hobey Baker award-winning player has been weighing a decision on whether to turn pro within the next few days and make the immediate jump to the NHL and join the Colorado Avalanche, who are in the midst of a first-round NHL playoff series with Calgary.

The Avalanche selected Makar with the fourth pick in the 2017 draft.

Makar said he wanted to first have a discussion with his family and added “everything’s up in the air right now.”

Makar made a point to wear his No. 16 UMass jersey to the podium.

“I just want to keep it on as long as I can,” he said. “It’s a jersey I’m very proud to wear. Our team has brought so much respect to this program. It’s going to be a couple of years that I’ll never forget in my entire life.”

Coach Carvel initially joked that he hoped Makar would return for a third season before acknowledging the defenseman has likely played his last game at UMass.

Freshman goalie Filip Lindberg stopped 28 shots, and had little chance on either of the Bulldogs’ first two goals.

The Bulldogs dominated from the start and were outshooting the Minutemen 6-0 when Mackay opened the scoring 3:51 in, and 1:20 after UMass defenseman Marc Del Gaizo was penalized for interference.

Riley Tufte began the play by controlling a bouncing puck at the right boards and feeding Anderson at the left point. Anderson immediately sent a pass into the slot, where a wide-open Mackay cut across and backhanded in a shot inside the left post. It was Duluth’s second power-play goal in its past 24 chances.

The Minutemen didn’t manage their first shot on net until the 4:16 mark and were outshot 14-5 in the period.

Mackay then played a big role in setting up Anderson’s goal. Controlling the puck along the right boards, Mackay spun around in the corner and hit Anderson in stride while making his way to the high slot. Anderson took a few steps and snapped a shot inside the right post.

Mackay completed his senior season with a five-game points streak in which he had three goals and four assists. He particularly played a key role in the Bulldogs’ tournament opening 2-1 overtime victory. Mackay tied the game with 3:01 remaining and then scored 8:15 into overtime.

With all top six defensemen returning, the Bulldogs were adept in hampering the Minutemen speed through the neutral zone, and clogging up the middle in their own zone. They also dished out several heavy hits, including Nick Wolff bowling over Makar five minutes into the second period when the defenseman was attempting to cross the blue line.

UMass’ best scoring chance came with 56 seconds left in the second period, when Anthony Del Gaizo came out from behind the Bulldogs’ net and had several chances to stuff the puck in only to be denied by Shepard.

All three Minnesota Duluth’s championships have come during coach Scott Sandelin’s 19-year tenure. Sandelin improved his tournament record to 21-6, and the Bulldogs’ 29 wins were the most since going 36-9-3 in 1984-85.

“We never take it for granted. You really enjoy it because you don’t know when you’re going to get that opportunity again,” Sandelin said. “So we’ll just enjoy it, and look at next year. Hopefully we can get back here.”

NOTES: UMass played minus forward Bobby Trivigno, who served a one-game NCAA suspension for an illegal hit to the head against Denver on Thursday. ... With UMass advancing to the final, Hockey East has had an NCAA-leading 29 teams play for the title over the past 21 years.

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