College Hockey:
One nonblond comes up big for Minnesota-Duluth

— Coming into the Frozen Four championship game with Michigan, Minnesota-Duluth’s Kyle Schmidt was mostly known for two things: winning the Derek Hines Unsung Hero Award and not dyeing his hair blond along with his teammates.

Now, the Hermantown, Minn., native is also known for scoring the goal that brought Duluth its first national championship.

 (Melissa Wade)

Kyle Schmidt talks to his dad through the glass in the postgame celebration Saturday (photo: Melissa Wade).

“I’ll take it, but [the goal] wasn’t even more or less my effort,” said Schmidt, giving his linemates Travis Oleksuk and J.T. Brown the credit for his tally, though he also did jokingly say his nonblond hair also played a part.

“Yup, I think that had something to do with it,” he quipped. “But no, I think it was more the other guys on my line than me. I was just in the right spot at the right time, so blond hair or just the tips, either way I think I would have buried that one hopefully and luckily I did.”

If you haven’t heard why Schmidt hadn’t dyed his hair, it’s because he’s getting married this summer. However, his teammates had no problems with his choice to just give his tips a golden hue.

“I’ve dyed my hair before and the stuff stays in a while, especially when you have long hair, so I don’t want to take any chances,” he said. “Obviously the media, they’ve picked up on it and they’ve kind of made it more of a bigger deal than it is, because the group knows that I did it and that’s all that I care about. They knew I was buying in, I’m a team guy; I would never not do something.

“They understood and it was completely OK with them.”

His team-first attitude is probably one of the reasons he won the Unsung Hero award, which goes annually to a “consummate team player and team builder.”

“It’s an honor for me to even be mentioned [in the same sentence as Derek Hines]“, said Schmidt. “Obviously, we have probably the best line in the nation, so everyone else is probably going to be covered up in them. We wouldn’t ask for the credit because they’re the ones that make things happen.”

Tonight, he made things happen instead, causing Duluth to sing his praises for a change. While he won’t have to give back his award, if he did, he’d be okay with it.

“Well, we’ll see,” he joked. “I guess if I have to I will. I’ll take a national championship any day of the week.”

Hometown heroes

Much was made coming into the weekend about the Bulldogs being the hometown team, given that they were the lone Minnesota representative. However, leading up to the championship game, that almost didn’t feel like an obvious fact, either in the arena or around St. Paul.

However, the fans — Bulldogs and adopted Bulldogs — made themselves known on Saturday, giving the Bulldogs an added boost.

“When we were signing autographs last night, all the Sioux fans came through and they were saying they were rooting for us,” said Schmidt. “There wasn’t a single one of them that says they weren’t rooting for us, rooting for the WCHA. We couldn’t have appreciated that any more. That was huge for us to know that we’d have an extra 10,000 fans or so rooting in our favor.

“Obviously you could tell by the building they got in on the UMD chants, the Bulldogs chants,” he continued. “To have their support, we couldn’t thank them enough because without them, the building probably would have been a little more dead and probably not gotten us up as much.

Teammate J.T. Brown and coach Scott Sandelin agreed.

“It’s kind of hard to not get up and play 100 percent when you have 19,000 people, so I just feel like [we] played off the crowd,” said Brown. “The crowd was great today.”

“It was unbelievable,” said Sandelin. “It was great in the beginning. It was packed, we saw different colored jerseys besides maroon and gold cheering, so that was great. [We] saw some green and white ones, so maybe some ties there that I’ve had, but it was great. It was a great atmosphere for the kids to be in.”

Quotable Duluth

“Definitely. He had one of his best performances in there between periods. I mean, he got us going in there. We were able to feed off that, get a little music playing, some familiar tunes, and I think that carried us out into the overtime.” — Kyle Schmidt, when asked if Sandelin had a Herb Brooks-like speech between the third period and overtime.

“I’ve had a design on a ring plan since I got here, so now I get to put it into reality.” — Scott Sandelin

“We’ll figure it out.” — Sandelin, when asked if his ring design was going to work within the school’s budget.

“I was picking Mike Seidel to score the winning goal, so that tells you what I know.” — Sandelin

“Don’t miss.” — Schmidt, when asked what was going through his head on the game-winning tally.

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  • Irish 101

    Couldn’t have said it better…it was Michigan fans vs everyone else. I didn’t run into a single other Irish fan who wanted the Wolverines and it seemed like the Sioux were all pulling for UMD as well. Congrats UMD and thanks for beating Michigan!

    • Anonymous

      Sioux fan here… couldn’t have asked for a more deserving team other than UND to win than the UMD Bulldogs! Congrats they deserved it!

  • Coryclaeson

    Never seen a better game. Thanks bulldogs. You’re the best

  • WCHA1

    It’s hard to say if the Sioux fans were rooting for Duluth because (1) they didn’t want Michigan to pull 3 ahead of the Sioux in national championships, (2) they were the lone WCHA team in the championship or (3) they simply liked Duluth mroe than Michigan. I’m thinking it is all 3, in that order, with (1) being the most important. Regardless, it seems the WCHA pulls for its own no matter the situation.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UAZX3GQJKB6Y6D5QUSW2BPYKVI Mal

      There’s also the fairly subtle benefit for North Dakota fans of having a team from Minnesota other than the Gophers win it all. They can rub the U’s nose in that while they’re floundering around in the middle of the WCHA pack for a couple more years. I think most Gophers fans are thrilled for the state generally, and for UMD in particular, but the dark cloud in that otherwise blue sky is that it’s been made even more clear that the Gophers aren’t even the best program in their own state over the last half decade. Proud of the little brother, but a little concerned about their own status in the pecking order.

  • Bricksx4

    Brings tears to the face. The finale is a dream come true for so many. The team, school, and community of fans deserved this one. It finally happened!

  • Westrover

    Great game! Congrats to UMD. Well deserved win. Among our Boston/ Hockey East fan group, UMD was the consensus choice. Excel center was a great venue.

  • Badger

    glad to see the little school get some glory.
    UMD may never play in a Rose Bowl, but this title will mean the world to the team and fans.
    i still have my championship gear from when the Badgers won in 1990… i felt like part of the team after watching every game that year.

  • Anonymous

    Schmidt did indeed dye his hair blond just like the rest of the team, but he only dyed the tips. He even said it during the on ice interview with ESPN.

    • Theresa Spisak

      Bottom of the fifth paragraph – “However, his teammates had no problems with his choice to just give his tips a golden hue.”

      That is essentially saying the same thing – he dyed his tips.

      • Anonymous

        Exactly, so why would USCHO write an article that makes multiple references to him not dying his hair, when in fact he did dye his hair. It makes their main focus of the article pointless when they concentrate so much on him not dying his hair, when as everyone knows he did indeed dye it.

  • Where Eagles Dare

    if anyone but UND or BU wins, it’s a WIN for college hockey. Schools with obnoxious fan bases deserve NADA!

    Congrats UMD…welcome to the cirlce of NCAA champs. Now, UNH needs to get the monkey of their back, but don’t hold your breath until Umile leaves…

    • J_o

      BC has the most annoying hockey fans- when they show up!!

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