NCAA hockey

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Minnesota Duluth wins second straight NCAA title, beating UMass 3-0

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Scott Sandelin acknowledged having his doubts through several low points of the season as to whether his Minnesota Duluth players were motivated enough to repeat as college hockey champions.

On Saturday, the Bulldogs coach could finally breathe easy after getting his answer.

Leaning on the leadership of senior and captain Parker Mackay and the stingy goaltending of junior Hunter Shepard, Minnesota Duluth became the ninth school to successfully defend its title following a 3-0 win over upstart Massachusetts.

“You never know how they’re going to come back. Are they really super motivated to get back there?” Sandelin said.

“I think that was probably the biggest challenge, trying to read them. And I think deep down they were,” he added. “They had a funny way of showing it because they’re really quiet, which quite frankly (ticked) me off sometimes, I’m not going to lie. But it was fun.”

Mackay was named the Frozen Four MVP after he opened the scoring and added an assist. Shepard stopped 18 shots for his seventh shutout of the season and nation-leading 29th victory, while improving his NCAA Tournament record to 8-0.

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

Leave it to Mackay to lead the way in closing his career with a five-game point streak in which he combined for four goals and three assists. And that included opening the NCAA Tournament by scoring the tying goal with 3:01 left and then scoring the winner in a 2-1 overtime victory over Bowling Green.

“It’s incredible. Obviously, you can’t write it any better than that,” said Mackay, who appeared in 14 tournament games in which the Bulldogs reached three consecutive finals starting with losing to Denver in 2017.

Mackay credited Shepard.

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

Mikey Anderson had a goal and two assists and Noah Cates sealed the win by scoring with 2:42 remaining.

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 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.

“He’s unbelievable. I feel very fortunate that I got to coach him,” Carvel said. “I don’t expect him back. Just very grateful, very grateful.”

Freshman 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 with a power-play goal.

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.

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.

“It seemed like tonight they were a more mature team,” Carvel said. “This is a big stage. We looked like a young team. We looked like a team that was playing a team that’s been here before, done this.”

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. … Sandelin improved his tournament record to 21-6, and the Bulldogs’ 29 wins were the most since going 36-9-3 in 1984-85.

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Predators sign Dante Fabbro to three-year, entry-level deal

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Nashville Predators have signed defenseman Dante Fabbro to a three-year, entry-level contract.

Fabbro collected 33 points and 28 assists as a junior at Boston University this season. The 20-year-old Fabbro was the only college player to have at least 30 points and 80 blocked shots this season.

The 6-foot-1, 193-pound Fabbro had a total of 22 goals and 58 assists in 111 career games with Boston University from 2016-19.

The Predators selected Fabbro in the first round with the 17th overall pick in the 2016 draft. Fabbro has represented Canada in multiple international events, most recently at the 2018 Spengler Cup.

Fabbro grew up a Predators fan and has two sisters who played college soccer at Austin Peay in Clarksville, Tennessee, about 50 miles from Nashville.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Brady Tkachuk on life at BU, 2018 NHL Draft, growing up with hockey (PHT Q&A)

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It was a pretty festive Thanksgiving for Brady Tkachuk, one of the top prospects in the 2018 NHL draft class. The Boston University forward was surrounded by hockey as his family joined their cousins, the Fitzgerald’s and Hayes’s, for a great turkey day.

Growing up with relatives that have played and currently play in the NHL has been a big benefit for the 18-year-old Tkachuk, who’s an early favorite to be selected in the top five picks next June. You can bet that while there was football on television and turkey on the table Thursday, plenty of hockey talk was going on.

“If I can absorb that from everybody, I would be really happy,” Tkachuk told PHT this week. “It’s kind of awesome because it’s an extra tool I get to use. I get to talk to people that have been through it. It’s definitely awesome to have.”

Tkachuk and his Terrier squad are off to a slow start (6-7-1) to the NCAA season and after winning two of their last three, they head to Madison Square Garden Saturday night for a “Red Hot Hockey” matchup against Cornell.

We spoke to Tkachuk about his time so far at BU, preparing for this season and beyond, and one day playing against his brother in the NHL.

Enjoy.

Q. How’s life at BU been treating you so far?

TKACHUK: “It’s been awesome. I got here in early July for some summer classes just to get used to the city feel and started working out here. But it’s been nothing but an awesome experience getting to meet a new group of guys in September. We’ve got a tight group. It’s been a lot of fun.”

How would you rate your start to the season so far?

“It’s been good. I wish we would have been playing a little bit better right now, but it’s been good. Team’s starting to really pick up past couple of weekends so it’s going to be an exciting couple of weeks ahead of us.”

You mentioned it’s been a tough start for team. Can you diagnose what’s behind the slow start?

“Not really, it’s just kind of about the bounces, but recently in the last couple of weekends we’ve been really playing as a team and as a unit. We’ve been keeping things simple.”

Your dad went to BU. Matt went the junior route. Why did you choose BU and feel the NCAA would be best for your development?

“They’re both great options but I chose BU because it was the best place for me to develop. It’s playing against men [and] the NHL’s full of men so I try to work on my skills here. We’ve got a great coaching staff, a great facility, so it was the best choice for me.”

There’s a lot of draft hype around you and where you might get selected in June. When those rankings come out do you pay any attention to them?

“Yeah, I see them on Twitter, but I try not to look too deep at them. I try to focus on everyday, try to get better. It’s still a ways away, so if I could just focus on becoming better everyday I’ll be happy about that.”

What are the biggest things you worked on in the off-season heading into this year?

“Definitely working on improving my skills and strength. I think that’s really important for everybody, especially myself, because you can never be satisfied with just being yourself. I always want to be better and try to get better every day. So if I can improve one part of my game it’ll just be the little things like tighter stick-handling. If I can do that, I’ll be happy.”

Your dad was one the game’s great power forwards. What kind of things has he told you about developing that strength?

“Just being around the net. Not a lot of guys like to go to the dirty areas. If I can make plays in there I can be successful. I kind of pride myself being around the net, tipping pucks, making plays in tight and try and give and go for my teammates.”

And what kind of advice has your dad and brother given you as you prepare to take this next step in your hockey career?

“Every time I talk to my dad he gives me two rules: compete everyday and be a good teammate. I try to take that and try to work my hardest to get better and work to help my teammates get better and be there to support the guys. My brother has taught me to be a professional every day — eat like one, work like one and treat your body like one and just be focused for everything I do.”

What do you think about Matt’s on-going feud with Drew Doughty?

“I think it’s kind of funny. It’s funny to see because it’s usually me and him going at it, so now seeing him go at it with another guy, it’s funny. They’re both obviously really good hockey players, so I just watch and see it on Twitter and everybody comes up to me the next day and is like, ‘did you see your brother?’”

Finally, the Benn brothers got into it on Tuesday night during their game. Are you looking forward to that day when it’s you and Matt going at it on the ice?

“Yeah, that would be a dream. I think my mom, too, especially would be really happy to see both of us on the same ice together. That’s definitely a big goal of mine and that would be awesome to accomplish our dreams.”

MORE PHT Q&A’s:
Rick Tocchet on Coyotes’ struggles, Clayton Keller, staying patient
Tyler Toffoli on Kings’ coaching change, celebrity encounters
Brian Gionta on NHL future, representing USA Hockey again
Paul Bissonnette on personality in hockey, transitioning to radio

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Penn State goaltender robs opponent with incredible stick save (Video)

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Penn State’s men’s hockey team won their fourth straight Big Ten conference opener thanks to a strong power play and the goaltending of Peyton Jones, who will find himself on many highlight reels this weekend.

With the Nittany Lions up 3-0 on the Minnesota Golden Gophers late in the second period, Jones, who stopped 20 of 21 shots faced, kept his shutout alive with this dazzling stick save on Mike Szmatula:

“I’ve obviously seen saves like that before on SportsCenter, but I’ve never seen one live,” Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said via USCHO. “It was pretty incredible.”

Jones, a sophomore who was making his 19th consecutive start, did find himself on SportsCenter’s top 10 plays of the night Friday, landing at No. 3.

The Nittany Lions, with help from two power play goals, would hold on to win 3-1 to improve to 2-1-0 on the season.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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Columbus’ Umberger to coach at Ohio State

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RJ Umberger is giving back to his alma mater.

That’s the word out of Columbus on Tuesday as the current Blue Jackets center — and former Buckeyes All-American — announced he’ll be joining Ohio State’s men’s team as a volunteer coach during the lockout.

“With the NHL lockout in full force, I am looking forward to being more connected to the Ohio State hockey program once again,” Umberger told the OSU Athletic site. “I’m excited to spend time on the ice with the players keeping myself in shape and hopefully offering any advice and help I can to them.”

Umberger spent three seasons at Ohio State from 2000-03, earning All-American honors as a junior by scoring 53 points in 43 games.

During his time with the Buckeyes, Umberger played with a number of future NHLers including Ryan Kesler, David Steckel, Rod Pelley and Nate Guenin.

He also played with a guy named Peter Broccoli, which I’m mentioning mostly because there’s a guy named Peter Broccoli.

It’s worth noting that Umberger is still the highest-drafted player in Buckeyes history, taken 16th overall at the 2001 NHL Entry Draft.