Frozen Four notebook: UMD experiences grief and glee in St. Paul
ST. PAUL -- A number of Bulldogs played with heavy hearts Saturday during their NCAA championship victory over Notre Dame at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
ST. PAUL - A number of Bulldogs played with heavy hearts Saturday during their NCAA championship victory over Notre Dame at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
That was especially true for Minnesota Duluth's junior assistant captain, Parker Mackay, whose friend and former teammate, Conner Lukan, was one of 15 Humboldt Broncos killed Friday in a bus crash.
Mackay and Lukan were junior hockey teammates with the Spruce Grove Saints of the Alberta Junior Hockey League in 2014-15 when the team won regular-season and postseason titles. Lukan, 21, was traded to the Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League in September.
"There was a little extra motivation today," Mackay said Saturday after the 2-1 win over the Fighting Irish. "He was an unbelievable guy. He showed up to the rink every day with a passion for the game.
"He was a warrior on the ice, and off the ice he was an unbelievable guy. He'll be missed by so many people."
The Broncos were traveling to Nipawin, Saskatchewan, for a playoff game Friday when their bus collided with a semi-tractor trailer, killing 10 players and five team personnel. Another 14 were injured.
Among the injured was a friend of Bulldogs freshman goaltender Ben Patt and senior wing Blake Young. Both are alumni of the SJHL and they appreciated the moment of silence that was held prior to Saturday's championship game. The moment also included the projection of the Humboldt Broncos' logo on the ice.
"It was a time to really reflect. It was much needed," Patt said. "During that silence, I put out a prayer for everyone in Humboldt, as I know all the guys did."
"It means the world that even as far away as we are now, people still care," Young said.
Young, a native of Battleford, Saskatchewan, played four seasons in the SJHL, including three-plus with his hometown North Stars. Patt, an Ontario native, played for the SJHL's Notre Dame Hounds in 2014-15 and 2016-17.
Both described the SJHL as a tough, gritty league that doesn't always get enough credit when compared to the Canadian Junior A leagues in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.
"I had a great time out there. Great coaches and great atmosphere," Patt said. "It's a bit of a farmboy league, some real tough guys there. It's growing and becoming great. We have great competition. We're getting better and better every year. I'm happy to be an alumni from it, and the relationships I had there and the coaches, they are the ones who helped me get to where I am today."
A GoFundMe online fundraiser ( https://www.gofundme.com/funds-for-humboldt-broncos ) has been established for the players, coaches and families of the Broncos who were affected by the crash. As of Sunday evening, it had raised over $4 million.
"It shows what a great community hockey is and how close we can be," Young said. "You might not know who those guys are but you feel like you do because you've been in those exact situations. How many guys have been on a bus for 30 hours a weekend? It just happened to happen to them and it's a terrible tragedy."
Tufte wins it for Carroll
The Bulldogs weren't only playing with the memory of the Humboldt Broncos in their hearts Saturday, but also that of former team captain Andrew Carroll, who took his own life in January.
Carroll played at UMD from 2005-09 and holds the distinction of being the only Bulldog to ever serve as an assistant captain and captain for all or parts of four seasons. As they have since a Jan. 23 game at Minnesota State-Mankato, the Bulldogs played Saturday's championship with "AC" decals on their helmets.
"I have a big heart for Andrew and his family," Tufte said. "They've done so much for me. I've said that so many times, but it's so true. I know he's looking down. He's so proud of us right now."
Tufte grew up training with Carroll and continued to train with him in his summers since graduating from Blaine High School. On Saturday, Tufte brought Carroll's young nephew, Jack, onto the ice after the win to celebrate with the Bulldogs.
"Andrew put in a lot of time for me," Tufte said. "I'm glad it could work out tonight, winning the national championship for him. It's so cool. ... I miss him so much."
Celebration scheduled for Tuesday
At the request of the team, UMD declined to hold a formal welcome-back event upon the Bulldogs' return to Duluth on Sunday, but the program has quite the bash planned for Tuesday at Amsoil Arena.
UMD will hold a recognition ceremony for the 2018 NCAA champion Bulldogs starting at 6 p.m., followed by an autograph session for fans. Both the 2018 and 2011 NCAA championship trophies will be on display for photo opportunities. Information on NCAA championship gear and 2018-19 season tickets also will be available.
The event is free and open to the public. Doors to Amsoil Arena will open at 5 p.m.