Going out in style
ST. PAUL — Four years ago, Kyle Schmidt's family sat in lower-level corner seats at the Xcel Energy Center and watched his brother, Ryan, help Hermantown win a Class A state high school hockey championship.
"He scored the empty-netter to clinch it," Kyle Schmidt said of his brother's goal in the Hawks' 4-1 victory against Duluth Marshall in the 2007 state title game.
Kyle Schmidt might have bragging rights in his family now.
The 5-foot-10, 175-pound forward scored the biggest goal in the history of the University of Minnesota-Duluth's men's hockey program on Saturday.
Three minutes, 22 seconds into overtime, Travis Oleksuk centered a pass from behind the Michigan goal to Schmidt, who was streaking down the slot. Schmidt fired the puck past Wolverines goalie Shawn Hunwick to give UMD its first national championship, with a 3-2 victory at the Xcel Energy Center.
"We're in the same locker room that (the 2007 Hermantown team) was in," Schmidt said. "My family was sitting down in the same corner as we were sitting when my brother's team won.
"To win a state championship is such a great experience. Unfortunately, I never played on a team that made it to state. I might have the trump card now."
After Schmidt, a senior, scored, he turned and skated all the way to the opposite blue line before sliding and making snow angels as his teammates rushed to pile on top of him.
"I didn't do a whole lot," he said of the game-winning goal. "My linemates were working their butts off. T.O. made a great pass and luckily it was a gimme. I was too nervous to bury anything else."
Schmidt embraced the moment, entertaining the dozens of reporters at the post-game press conference for close to 15 minutes. He was the only player on the UMD roster to not dye his hair blonde before the NCAA tournament and he provided the answer before the question could be asked. "I didn't dye my hair; I'm getting married soon," he said apologetically.
When asked if not dying his hair had anything to do with scoring the winning goal, he quickly quipped, "yep." After a pause for laughter, he added, "but blonde hair or not, I think I would have buried that one."
Schmidt's goal sent the pro-Bulldogs crowd of 19,222 into a frenzy. It was a relief for a program that had been to just one national title game before — a heartbreaking 5-4 loss to Bowling Green in four overtimes on March 24, 1984. That was three years, one month and six days before Schmidt was born.
It was fitting that Schmidt, who grew up in Hermantown, just 15 minutes from Duluth, scored the game winner. He has paid his dues at UMD, having totaled just 11 points in his first two seasons. His goal Saturday was just his 27th career goal in 134 games at UMD. And he ended his career in a way he only dared dream of four years ago when he put on the Bulldogs sweater for the first time.
"This is great for the players and the coaches," he said, "but it has been way too long for the people in Duluth. To be so close back in 1984, 27 years ago ... this is for all the people, all the Bulldogs fans everywhere. It's awesome."