ST. PAUL, Minn. — 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.
“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.”
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.”
“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.