After string of second-place finishes, Minto's Jade Miller finally gets his title
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Jade Miller played for a bantam state championship in eighth grade and lost.
He played for three North Dakota state high school championships with Grafton-Park River and lost all of them.
He played for a North American Hockey League championship in junior hockey and lost.
He played for an NCAA national championship as a freshman at Minnesota Duluth and lost.
“They give you doubt,” Miller said of the title-game losses. “I don’t know if they make you mentally tougher after that many.”
On Saturday night, the string of runner-up finishes ended for Miller.
The Minto, N.D., product skated ecstatically around Xcel Energy Center with the NCAA national championship trophy after his Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs beat Notre Dame 2-1 in the title game.
Miller, who assisted on the game’s first goal, was the final Minnesota Duluth player to leave the ice Saturday night. He spent nearly 30 minutes after the game looking for family members around the rink to share the championship with them.
“This is going to be good for me mentally for the rest of my life,” Miller said. “You look back on so many of those and think about what you could have done differently. It’s going to be really nice to look back on this some day, 20 years from now, and remember this moment, because it’s not going away any time soon.
“I was praying that I was finally going to get to throw something in the air. It’s just pure. . . there are no words to describe it. Being a national champion is a childhood dream. This group of guys was counted out by everyone besides the guys in the locker room and the staff. Kudos to the staff for believing in us. It was a pretty special run.”
Minnesota Duluth (25-16-3) won all four NCAA tournament games by one goal, becoming the first team to do that.
Miller was in on key goals against Air Force in the regional final and against Notre Dame in the national championship.
His line also featured Warroad’s Kobe Roth, who fractured his tibia during the first period of Saturday’s title game on a check by Notre Dame’s Justin Wade.
Roth had X-rays immediately after the game. He said the medical staff is hopeful that that he won’t have to have surgery.
“It wasn’t a dirty hit or anything,” Roth said. “I kind of got hit funny and my ankle got caught behind me.”
Roth’s teammates pulled a training table into the middle of the locker room for him to watch the final two periods on TV. Then, he put his jersey back on and returned to the ice for the celebration.
“It’s incredible,” Roth said. “It doesn’t even feel real. It’s unbelievable that we did this. Everyone doubted us this year. But for us, we knew what we were capable of this year. It’s awesome to get it done.”
Miller pushed Roth around the ice on a chair as he held the national championship trophy over his head.
Roth, who never got to play in the state tournament in the Xcel Energy Center with Warroad, was able to celebrate the championship with Miller, finally got his long-awaited title.
“This is so much fun,” Miller said. “This is unbelievable. This is a dream come true.”