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Bulldogs celebrated at Twins, Wild games; team reflects on win

UMD men's hockey captain Mike Montgomery (center) hoists the NCAA Division I hockey trophy for the crowd at Target Field prior to Sunday's Minnesota Twins game. (Tom Olmscheid / Associated Press)

They were at Target Field on Sunday, then back at Xcel Energy Center. Everyone wanted a piece of the Minnesota Duluth men's hockey team in the 24 hours since the Bulldogs became NCAA Division I champions in their home state.

Coach Scott Sandelin handed the ceremonial first-pitch duties to longtime manager Dale "Hogie" Haagenson before the Minnesota Twins met Oakland at Target Field. Haagenson, 50, who has worked with the UMD program since 1981, threw to Twins manager Rod Gardenhire to start the festivities. Wearing game jerseys, the Bulldogs were introduced to a crowd of 38,484, then watched the game from left-field luxury boxes in Minneapolis.

UMD's next stop was back at Xcel Energy Center, where it defeated Michigan 3-2 in overtime Saturday night in the Frozen Four championship game. During the first period of an NHL game between Minnesota and Dallas, a UMD highlight video was shown and the team, watching from a suite, was given a standing ovation by a crowd of 18,504 in St. Paul.

The Bulldogs were back home by 9 p.m., with a six-month season all but completed. By that time a replay of their victory was being shown on ESPN Classic.

Just a night earlier, UMD claimed the first men's NCAA hockey title in school history, coming in the same academic year as an NCAA Division II football title for the Bulldogs. Michigan State is the only other school to accomplish that feat, with Division I championships in each sport in 1965-66, including a hockey title won in Minneapolis.

A post-game highlight for UMD's players was a Gatorade shower in the locker room that drenched Sandelin. The coach could only smile after two wins in three nights.

"It's a phenomenal experience; the whole tournament was tremendous," Sandelin said Saturday. "This is one of the best venues you have in this tournament, if not the best. It's a hockey city."

The No. 9-ranked Bulldogs (26-10-6) had defeated nine-time champion Michigan (29-11-4) after rallying from a 1-0 first-period deficit. UMD ignored its 4-5-2 record in games in which it trailed after one period and continued on to win -- with an NCAA-leading seventh overtime victory of the season to finish 7-2-6 in a school-record 15 OT games. In the school's past three NCAA appearances, including 2004 and 2009, UMD is 7-2.

Michigan entered the game 12-1 the previous 13 games with consecutive victories over Nebraska-Omaha, Colorado College and No. 2 North Dakota, all of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

"We just beat them with our speed," said UMD junior goalie Kenny Reiter. "We hounded the puck and they couldn't get anything going."

The Bulldogs, fourth in the WCHA during the regular season, finished the playoffs with four straight wins.

"Because we had played so many overtimes this season, we were comfortable with that," said senior captain Mike Montgomery. "During the season, and tonight, guys played above and beyond their roles. Everyone played great."

UMD's top line of Mike Connolly, Jack Connolly and Justin Fontaine was held without a point Saturday, which seemed an unlikely ingredient for success.

"Our second line (centered by Travis Oleksuk) stepped in and picked us up," Jack Connolly said.

Oleksuk, with a team-leading seven game-winning goals, scored once and set up the game-winner. Freshman fourth-line center Max Tardy scored his first collegiate goal. And Schmidt got the game-winner despite a sore right hand.

Schmidt suffered a break in the hand Dec. 29 and had a rod inserted during surgery Jan. 5. The same hand was broken again March 26 during an East Regional title win over Yale University in Bridgeport, Conn., and a screw was inserted during surgery March 29.

On Saturday, Schmidt saw Oleksuk handling the puck behind the Michigan net and yelled for a pass. He got it and connected at the crease, right in front of Michigan goalie Shawn Hunwick. That quick strike ended the game.

"I was just in the right spot at the right time," said Schmidt.