April 5, 2018
Minnesota Duluth - 2, Ohio State - 1
MODERATOR: We're joined by Minnesota-Duluth. Coach, opening comments.
COACH SANDELIN: First off, I want to congratulate Steve and Ohio State. They had an outstanding year. Again, it was again what we expected. It was going to be a battle. We obviously had a great start to the game, getting a lead, but thought our first two periods were strong, and a little slow in the third. They got the power play, but our guys held strong and kind of seems to be the MO with our team right now. Our program in this tournament, we've had a lot of one-goal games.
But real excited for our guys, how they've grown through the year and to be able to play in the final game of the year is pretty special. So we're looking forward to it.
MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Jared, can you talk a little bit about Louie getting that goal right away and you getting the second one? It was the turning point of the game.
JARED THOMAS: It was a huge start for us. I mean that's been our key all along; when we've had success we've had fast starts. It was a great play by two freshmen defensemen there on the goal. Louie is not quite the biggest goal scorer -- no goals in high school, right? Couple this year, though.
But it was a great play all around there. And I think we got one within the next couple of shifts, our line did. So that's the 2-0 start that we wanted and the fast start. And that's when we're at our best. It's hard for teams to come back on us when we get a lead.
Q. Louie, your dad was a pretty good goalie. Did he try to put you in between the pipes or have you always been a defenseman?
LOUIE ROEHL: I always started as a player. He told me you never want to sit on the bench a couple games and miss an opportunity in games. I begged him to put me in net, but he said it was too expensive and told me to just go play defense. (Laughter).
Q. Louie, do you think about obviously not just representing your university, but the league against the Big Ten in the Frozen Four here?
LOUIE ROEHL: Yeah, it's always fun to be the only team from the NCHC in this tournament. Our league is a tough league and every night you have to come up and show up and play. (Indiscernible) into the Big Ten, playing them too, they have a tough league and have some good teams in there. And we just have to come out and play our best.
Q. Louie, your dad was in attendance tonight, up here from Arizona. First time he's seen you play collegiately. What did it mean to have him see you and even score a goal on the biggest stage in college hockey?
LOUIE ROEHL: Good time. Good to see him on the red carpet. Haven't seen him in a while. It was good. He's watched it on NCHC.TV.com (sic), so he's been watching me all year.
Q. Both of you, your team was the last team to make it into the tournament. It was really, really close and yet over the last five, six years a couple of those teams have won national championships. Can you just talk about perhaps embracing that underdog role and coming and knocking off higher seeds?
JARED THOMAS: Yeah, I think when you're fighting for your life there to get in the tournament, you're kind of playing playoff hockey a couple weeks earlier than everyone else, and you just kind of get on a run and keep it going and figure out how to play tough, close games like that. And we've had, I think every game we've had in our last four, five, six games have been one-goal games.
And I think just the fact that we had to crawl and scratch our way from basically the bottom at the start of the season to where we are now, it's been a heck of a run that we've put together and hopefully come out on Saturday and finish it off.
LOUIE ROEHL: Yeah, just add to go what he said. I mean, we've been battling all year to get a spot in the tournament, and it's been great to see our team come together as one and really trusting each other and believe we can do it. And that's what you see us do here today. We worked hard as a collective group and things turned out well.
Q. Louie, could you take us through the shot on your goal? Looked like you wanted to release it, maybe bobbled for a millisecond, but you got it back. That seemed to get the goalie a little bit out of position.
LOUIE ROEHL: Matty made a great play. I think everybody in the arena thought he was going to shoot the puck and he slid it over to me. I caught it, picked my head up, took a little longer to get the release off. Just made sure the goalie wasn't there, and just shot it in. And it was all good.
Q. Louie or Jared, how did the Air Force game you guys had to deal with in Sioux Falls where you get out to a big start then you have to send them off the rest of the game, how does that mentally prepare you guys for kind of a similar style of game tonight?
JARED THOMAS: Yeah, it was a pretty similar game, if you look at it. Got off to a 2-0 lead and I thought we still played well. We weren't really defending for our lives. We only gave up 11 shots through two periods, I think, so we were pretty effective that way.
And we just couldn't get that third goal. We've had plenty of chances, and we just couldn't really get that one to really step on their throat there. But all in all, I think we did well and managed the game, killed off some big penalties there until they squeaked one in.
But it was a great 60 minutes for us. We would have liked to have obviously got that third goal and get a bigger lead, but we like making it interesting. So we'll take it.
LOUIE ROEHL: Adding to what he said, I mean, it's always hard to put teams away. They come out in the second period when we get a lead and they fight hard. They fight for their season. When we try to end teams, they make a big push but I think we kind of weathered the storm well. And our defense has been great this year.
So that's been working for us, to hold our own in our zone. And our forwards have been great on the forecheck, so we've created some havoc down there. And, yeah, it all works out.
Q. Jared, just talk about Karson's play throughout this tournament. He gave you the pass and that set up your goal which was a great long pass. And he's one of the old leaders on a team with a lot of young talent. Just what he's meant on the ice and off with the culture of the team?
JARED THOMAS: Kind of sound like a broken record, but that's why he's our captain. He does things that get the boys going. He's always that spark that we need when we need it. Made a great pass to me on that goal. It's really nice playing with a guy like that. Obviously he does all the right things and you can't really put into words what he brings to our team inside the locker room and even off the rink. I think you can tell what he does on the rink and you can see the type of guy he is.
Q. Jared, what's it been like to be on a team this young and now to have so many teammates that weren't on last year's run and don't know what Saturday's game is going to be like?
JARED THOMAS: Yeah, it's pretty remarkable that, getting back to this game, clearly obviously last year we had a much older group. Expectations were super high. And this year complete opposite, I guess. In the age standpoint, we had a young group. Had to figure out our identity and how we wanted to play and how we wanted to win hockey games.
And I think after Christmas break I think we figured out how we were going to be successful and playing in another national championship game, I don't think it's really set in yet. But in the end it's just another hockey game, last hockey game of the season. Last hockey game of my college career. And I know everyone in our locker room is going to do everything they can to finish at the top.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. Talk about the impact that Dylan Samberg has had for your team this year?
COACH SANDELIN: He's had a big impact. It's been fun to watch that whole group grow. I think since he's come back from the World Juniors he's really elevated his play. I think the last three or four games, I thought he was outstanding in Sioux Falls. He was our best defenseman.
But tonight again played the same way. A lot more confidence, learning like all those guys it's been a learning curve. But they relish those games. It's funny, they don't really, they don't panic. They just kind of play, but it's been really fun to watch him along with that whole group just kind of grow.
Like I said, we let him make mistakes early and I think that's how we knew we were going to have to play all those kids and it's been fun. And we're reaping the benefits of it, I guess. But he was good again tonight.
Q. Was it somehow appropriate with all the talk about your young defense that the first goal is rail from Anderson and the impact those guys have had when that was supposed to be kind of the Achilles' heel?
COACH SANDELIN: Maybe. Firstly, I don't care who scored it, it was nice to get one. It was nice to get that start. It was nice to add to it. Like Jared alluded to, the last couple of games we've had opportunities to get the third goal but we haven't. And we've managed to still win those games, but it would have been nice to maybe get that third one. I'm not saying the result still would have been maybe a win, I don't know, but it would have been nice to add a little bit to that. But it was just important that we had a good start. And this team has started.
I would say 75, 80 percent of the games we've had a good start. And that was another key tonight was getting that quick start and playing with a lead.
Q. Talk about all of the one-goal games, all the tough games you guys have had to go through, how has that prepared you guys mentally for this stage?
COACH SANDELIN: I'd like to think it's helped us. Obviously it's great when you win them. But we've had a lot -- we're not a super high-powered offensive team. I think the big change for our team, we've played much better defense in the last month and a half, two months. Shep has been a big part of that.
I think you saw tonight, too, they didn't have a lot. The third period we were careless with the puck early and they got some power play opportunities, but we didn't give them a lot of looks. And it was the same thing the last few games. But for me it's what you expect. I expected that tonight. I mean two good defensive teams. Both teams can score. But I expected it to be a tight low-scoring game.
Q. Scott, it's been great watching that young defense just play so consistently all year. I don't know if you had a good look at the last ten seconds, but I think you had Samberg on his hands and knees groveling in the corner. Might be the first time groveling in the corner and protecting the puck would make your highlight film?
COACH SANDELIN: I'd like to see it again, because I thought the time ran out. I guess we had to celebrate twice again. Reminded me of last weekend. I wasn't sure why -- what happened. But I'll have to look at it, John, and we'll talk about it.
Q. To put it simply, how in the heck did you lose half of your lineup from last year and get your program back to the national championship game?
COACH SANDELIN: I don't know. (Laughter). You know what, you just don't know. We knew we had some good freshmen coming in. We had big question marks, there's no question about that. So I think even with a lot of people, there was doubt. And it's something we talked about. I talked about it at length with some of our older players that trust us.
But it takes time for those kids to get used to college hockey. Every weekend was a new experience for our freshmen. But we had a good -- our forward group, we had a lot of depth coming back.
We didn't have maybe, like I said, the big offensive line or like some teams do, but we had balance. And I think that started to show in the second half. And again we have 26 players on our team and those guys have all contributed this year.
When we had injuries, when we had guys at the World Junior, and that was kind of where things turned a little bit. But I couldn't be more proud of this group. We sat here three weeks ago and we thought our season was done. And I would have -- and I think I said it.
It would have sucked for our seniors to end it that way because we didn't give ourselves a chance to win those games and we went back and got lucky. And I think it gave us a second life. And here we are.
And you know what, maybe they're just so young they don't know any better. But I'm really excited for guys like Jared and Karson. Those guys, all of our seniors, it's a great experience for our younger players to go through, because they really understand how hard it is. It's hard to get to the Frozen Four. It's hard to get into the national tournament. It's hard to win your league. College hockey is so good right now that that's why you're seeing close games. And I don't even -- I don't think there's any upsets anymore because I think the parity is so good.
But all I know is I'm elated for our program. I'm super excited for our players to have an opportunity to play on Saturday.
Q. How much do you value not only just representing your program, but representing your league especially against a team in the national title game from the Big Ten, that kind of shook things up when it was formed a few years ago?
COACH SANDELIN: Certainly take a lot of pride in it. We came here, the lone NCHC team. We've had more than that. Obviously last year, us and Denver were in the final game. That was pretty cool for our league. And Denver won. We won the last two with North Dakota the year before.
So we take a lot of pride in it. And we're just happy we won tonight. And we're going to end up playing another Big Ten school.
So right now I really don't care who that is. I'm just excited for our players. And we're looking forward to playing. It doesn't matter what league it is. But they've had a tremendous year, too, so give them credit and our league was strong again, too. We were just the lone survivors to get into the tournament and we're still playing. So we're going to try and take advantage of it.
Q. You spoke a little bit on this, but can you contrast the emotions you felt as you were sweating out making it into the tournament versus now being one game away from the national championship?
COACH SANDELIN: I sat in the front of the bus, checked my phone here and there, looking at two games, Princeton and BU game, and those didn't go our way. Someone brought up the fact that there was another opportunity, there was another scenario.
I'm like, really? Okay. Good. Guys are watching it on their computer. I didn't look at the back of the bus. We got home. Got there just in time to see the end of the Ohio State/Notre Dame, watch it from my office game. They won. I had a beer. That's exactly what I did. (Laughter).
It was a pretty dramatic bus ride home. But I'll tell you, the way we got in was really an eye-opener for our guys because they knew it could have been done, and I think it gave them a second life and again a new opportunity, and they've taken advantage of it. So give those guys credit.
Q. You're in the national championship game, second year in a row. You're playing in the same venue where you won your first title a number of years back. You guys were feeding off the crowd at numerous points tonight. What kind of advantage do you think that's going to give you on Saturday night?
COACH SANDELIN: I hope it gives us a big advantage. Because I remember in '11 when we came out the building was electric. You could feel it in warm-up, and I hope it's the same way because I thought that game was an outstanding hockey game and I expect the same thing Saturday. It's great that it's close.
It's great that we have a lot of our Bulldog fans here and maybe some people have jumped on board but I want more and hopefully we can get this building really loud and pulling for us, but it was a lot of fun in '11. I expect it to be the same thing because we've got tremendous fans.
Q. Nick Swaney looked solid tonight. How have you seen him grow as a player and develop in this first year?
COACH SANDELIN: Real well. He started and had injury, been interrupted -- his momentum through the season has been interrupted with some injuries. But now that he's back, probably the last month, I think he's starting to play like he did early before he got hurt and at different stages. It's hard. Kids get on kind of that roll and he's scored goals.
I mean, he scored over 60 goals in USHL before he came. We felt he could be and was going to be an impact player for us offensively. And started well and missed some time and got back to it, and missed some more time. And now he scored some big goals for us and played real well here in the last month. So I thought that line again was really good. They've been really good for us here the last three, four games.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports