‘One Helluva D Corps’ UMD’s 6 Rank Among Best of All Time
BUFFALO, N.Y. — “Hard work and defense wins championships. I think that’s as simple as it gets.”
It may be that simple, according to Minnesota-Duluth defenseman Louie Roehl, and it certainly seemed that way as UMD efficiently worked its way to a 3–0 shutout Saturday. The team’s hard work throughout the season, and growth as a defense corps, led the program to its second consecutive national championship.
It’s worth remember that the same group won the championship last year, when they were made up of five freshmen. Now they’re five sophomores, and only that much better.
Having that experience under their belt heading into this season meant they knew what it took to win it all.
“I thought we just built off last year,” Roehl said. “Everyone kind of said we were a question mark having our defense so young. Then we just came into this year with a mentality that we were the core of this team, and we can lead to this team to another one. So we just kind of stuck with it.”
Said Dylan Samberg, “A lot of us played on big stages last year. We know we’re young, but we’ve played on big stages, and it really helped this year, with that experience, knowing what it took to win a championship.”
Having already been to one Frozen Four title game, the young blueline knew what they had to do to beat UMass as they prepared for Saturday’s championship game. And when they did, they did it in as efficient a manner as you can in a hockey game. It’s certainly not effortless, but it requires a lot of effort to make it look as effortless as it was.
“I thought we started the game the right way,” Roehl said. “We put pressure on them first, put them back on their heels. I mean, we have, I would say, one of the best D corps in the country, and one of the best goaltenders in the country, too.”
As the championship game went on, the defense continued to stifle the Minutemen’s offensive chances. They were limited to just five shots on goal in the first period, compared to UMD’s 14. Overall, the Minutemen were able to record 18 shots on goal, to UMD’s 31.
And then Samberg deflected the credit.
“Mainly it was our forwards, they made our job easier,” Samberg said. “They got pucks deep, got on them, kind of wore them out. We were able to make plays coming into the zone because they were really well supporting.”
For sure it’s a team effort, but UMD’s unit has a chance to go down as one of the best in college hockey history. Maybe it’s not the same as Boston University’s six from 2009, all of whom went on to play in the NHL, but then again, maybe it is.
The Bulldogs’ defensive strength extends to more than just Saturday night’s effort, of course.
They allowed just 79 goals against in 42 games over the course of the season, sixth-best in the country in goals-against. (Cornell and Quinnipiac tied for first at 73.) They allowed 13 fewer goals this season compared to last.
“We really pride ourself in our defense,” Samberg said. “Defense before offense. As a whole unit, we make sure we come back with five and really be supportive of each other. I think that was an advantage for us tonight.”
Sophomore Mikey Anderson acknowledged the team’s defensive growth as the season has gone on.
“We’ve grown more confident with what we’re doing,” Anderson said. “The trust factor’s always going up, every day, through our practices and games. When it comes to the end of the year like this, that’s the most important thing, knowing your teammates are going to do everything they can.”
Anderson chipped in with a goal as well, his sixth of the year. As a unit, it contributed 23 goals this season.
The unit symbolizes what works about UMD as a whole. Three of the players are high NHL Draft picks — Perunovich, Anderson and Samberg. The others are not — Matt Anderson, Louis Roehl and the lone junior, Nick Wolff.
Wolff is sure to get some attention from the NHL now, at 22 years old, 6-foot-4, and with two national titles under his belt, and with a game that has evolved tremendously since he came raw to Duluth.
The same could be said for all of them, really, in their own way.
“I think it helps having great leaders,” Mikey Anderson said. “Those guys make it easy. We’ve just tried to grow off each other every day. We’re learning little things we can do better, and I think the coaching staff deserves a lot of credit with that too, of being patient with us and letting us develop.”
They’ve certainly come a long way from the beginning of the season, when they gave up seven goals to Minnesota in just their second game. Of course, they followed that loss up with an eight-game winning streak, so there’s something to be said for rallying after a big loss.
“There were some gaps and some holes on the defense early on,” Perunovich said. “When that happens, with everyone working throughout the year with the coach and leadership we had, obviously, you can tell there were no holes tonight.”
This group of seemingly-young defenders have already won two national championships, and they’re still just getting started.
“We’ve faced a lot of adversity,” Wolff said. “We learned some things. We got yelled at a lot. But we all enjoyed it. When one person is down, we’ve got the other five to support each other. It’s all a matter of we trust each other, we have confidence in each other, and that makes for one helluva D corps.”
Source: Melissa Burgess | CHN Reporter