Sweet, sweet victory.
Not to be content with just winning the NCAA championship last season, the University of Minnesota Duluth pulled off the amazing feat once again this year, shutting out the University of Massachusetts Amherst 3-0 in the final game on Saturday to claim back-to-back championships.
It was also the third season in a row where the tight-checking, defense-first Bulldogs played in the NCAA final, the first one of which they dropped to a University of Denver team that was coached by Jim Montgomery.
2016 Dallas Stars first rounder Riley Tufte was one of a small handful of UMD players to be a part of all three teams. Even though it’s familiar territory for him by now, the magic of the moment wasn’t lost on Tufte after the big win on Saturday.
“It’s amazing... pretty crazy being back here for a third time, and winning back to back,” Tufte said after the game to Scott Matla of SB Nation’s Habs Eyes on the Prize, who talked to the huge winger on behalf of Defending Big D. “It’s pretty unbelievable, we had the right group of guys and the right coaching staff in the locker room. Crazy, it’s just absolutely crazy this feeling, truly unbelievable.”
Tufte had a secondary assist in the contest, helping to set up UMD’s first goal, which stood as the game-winner.
With so much NCAA success already on his resume, the big question now is what comes next for Tufte.
He’s only played three seasons of NCAA hockey so far, so he has the option of going back to school for his fourth and final year. He could also decide to sign his entry-level contract and make the jump to the professional leagues — if Dallas agrees that he’s ready for that jump, that is.
On Saturday night, though, he was more concerned with living in the moment.
“To be determined right now,” he said about whether he intended to turn pro. “I’ll make some calls in the next few days to see what my options are and potential decisions, but still too early to tell I think.”
Regardless of what the future holds for him, he’s always going to have a lot of fond memories of his time in school and the incredible experiences that he gained.
“It’s amazing, some of the best experiences I’ve had, and just looking back there’s going to be a lot of memories... When I’m 50 years old and looking back I’m going to remember every one of these moments, that’s the cool thing. It’s about making memories and getting experiences like this, and that’s going to be big going to the next level.”
They fought valiantly down the stretch, but it in the end it was too little, too late for the Texas Stars.
Texas went 1-2 in their final three games of the regular season, losing 5-3 on Wednesday, winning 4-3 on Friday, and then falling 3-1 on Saturday, with all the games coming against the state rival San Antonio Rampage.
“I think you saw the final result of a grind down the stretch finally catching up with our guys,” head coach Derek Laxdal said postgame, as reported by 100 Degree Hockey. “I think it was a combination of the grind and that we’d asked so much of these guys down the stretch to stay in the race.”
Even if Texas would have run the gamut in these last three games, they still would have finished outside of the playoff picture, as the teams ahead of them picked up enough points in the final week to stay ahead. Texas simply didn’t accumulate enough points throughout the majority of the regular season.
Jake Oettinger started all three games in net, and aside from a couple of goals that he might want back, he looked right at home, which includes making some spectacular saves in the three games.
The kind of save you need to see from every angle pic.twitter.com/0q6ddhg6SI— Texas Stars (@TexasStars) April 11, 2019
Speaking of highlight reel goals, Ty Dellandrea’s second career professional tally certainly fits that description:
Speed... breaks... beauty.— Texas Stars (@TexasStars) April 13, 2019
Ty Dellandrea pic.twitter.com/92U1W5gSqA
The most pleasant prospect surprise of the team’s playoff push, however, might be big two-way center Rhett Gardner, who scored three goals in his last four games and finished with five points in 11 games since joining Texas. That’s a nice professional acclimation for the 23-year-old, who will be with the team full time in the fall.
Also worth noting from the games is that Riley Damiani made his AHL debut on Saturday after spending a little while with the team as an extra.
With Texas eliminated and the Dallas Stars still in the playoffs, we can expect many call-ups to Dallas in the immediate future. The top candidates will be Joel L’Esperance, Denis Gurianov, and Gavin Bayreuther, although others may join them as well.
Next season for the Texas Stars is going to be a fun one for Dallas fans to follow, as the team will have a large contingent of the organization’s prospects on the roster.
North American Juniors
Jason Robertson and the Niagara IceDogs were eliminated from the OHL playoffs on Monday night, falling 3-2 to the Oshawa Generals in Game 6. Robertson had six shots on net in the deciding game and finished the playoffs with seven goals and 10 points in 10 games. The series saw something of a team-wide unraveling for Niagara, starting when things got really physical in a 7-3 Oshawa win in Game 4. Robertson himself crossed the line that game, getting a five-minute major and a game misconduct for a cross-check late in the third period. He was also issued a one-game suspension for the incident, causing him to miss Saturday’s Game 5, which was a 3-1 win for Oshawa.
Jason Robertson with a really dangerous hit from behind tonight on his former-teammate Brett Neumann. No place in the game for this. @OHLHockey has set the precedent that these types of hits in the playoffs are a 1 game suspension pic.twitter.com/viQu4Yud4f— Generals Live (@GeneralsUpdates) April 12, 2019
Winger Tye Felhaber helped the Ottawa 67’s pull off a sweep of the Sudbury Wolves last week with two goals and an assist in the final two games. Most notably, he scored the game-winning goal in triple overtime on Friday night in one of the longest games in OHL history. He now has goals in four straight games. Ottawa, who is 8-0 in these playoffs, will now face the winner of Niagara-Oshawa.
Triple OT heroics by @Felhaber62 @DallasStars prospect scores at 110:15 officially ending fifth longest game in #OHL history as @Ottawa67sHockey complete second round sweep.#OHLPlayoffs | #OTTvsSBY pic.twitter.com/sLpdGmlg10— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) April 12, 2019
"Someone told me it was almost midnight, my Mom was gonna kill it was passed my bedtime so figured I'd end that one."@Felhaber62 after scoring the game winning goal in triple overtime.#67s #NoQuit pic.twitter.com/qmHDgkFEcd— xyz - Ottawa 67's (@Ottawa67sHockey) April 12, 2019
This isn’t a celly, but it’s an A+ celebration by Felhaber nevertheless:
The Guelph Storm have, uh, stormed back from a 3-0 series deficit to force a Game 7 against the London Knights, which will take place on Tuesday. Forward Liam Hawel had the game-winning goal and an assist in Game 4.
Jacob Peterson and his Frolunda teammates are off to the SHL finals after a 6-2 Game 5 win on Monday over Lulea. Peterson (#44 in red in the GIF below) had a secondary assist, two shots on goal and a minor penalty in a win in Game 5. He’s playing between 10 and 13 minutes of ice time as of late.