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With Honors

Kenny Reiter gained a lot of unique knowledge last season. After all, backstopping a team to an NCAA Division-I national championship isn’t exactly a class offered at the University of Minnesota Duluth. The Plum native excelled in that extracurricular course, guiding the Bulldogs to college hockey’s ultimate prize. This year’s lesson – Defending Your Title, 101.

“Every season is different – kind of like every day. You don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. It’s a learning process,” he said. “I think we learned a lot dealing with all the media attention and all the other accolades that go along with winning. I think we’re in a good spot to deal with it all. Now, it’s just putting the product on the ice.”

After falling to Bemidji State, 3-2, in overtime at the WCHA Final Five quarterfinals, Reiter’s Bulldogs put together an impressive NCAA tournament run. They blanked Union, 2-0, and topped Yale, 5-3 in the NCAA East Regional. Reiter stopped 62 of 65 shots in the two games and was named the East Regional’s MVP.

The squad advanced to the NCAA Frozen Four and upset Notre Dame, 4-3, before it knocked off Michigan, 3-2, in overtime to claim the title – and a nice championship ring.

“Anytime you can get a ring, that’s pretty awesome,” Reiter said. “It was a great weekend (when we got ours). Also, it was our alumni weekend. We got to meet a lot of alumni you see when you walk into the team room and they are up on the wall. They were just as excited as we were to be part of it and share in the experience. It was really neat to meet those guys. Just to see their excitement for it was awesome.”

Even though the Bulldogs are the defending national champs, Reiter, now a senior, knows the team won’t get any free passes from opponents. It’ll be quite the opposite, actually.

“This season’s started. What’s happened in the past is the past. It’s nice to reflect on it once in a awhile, but we come in with a completely new mindset,” he said. “With what we did accomplish, the bar has been raised considerably higher. With what happened last year, we’re just focusing on following up with a good season. We’re not trying to look too far ahead. We know everyone is gunning for us. We’re just trying to prepare ourselves for what we’ll see this year.”

Reiter, who spent about two and a half months of his summer back home in Plum, doesn’t believe he and his teammates will be complacent. Rather, they are hungry for more.

“For me, that’s exactly the way I feel. After you win it, you can’t really explain how it feels,” he said. “You just want to be there every year from there on out. It’s tough to explain. The drive is there even more. We know it’s not just going to happen. I think a lot of the other guys feel the same way. We’re trying to stress that to the incoming freshmen, how great of an experience it was and how much hard work it takes to get there. It’s definitely Frozen Four or bust for us.”

Individually, Reiter enjoyed a successful season, too. He finished with a 16-7-5 record, a 2.30 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage. All three of those marks ranked among the top third of the nation’s goaltenders.

“As far as my game goes, any goalie will tell you, I just want to be more consistent in the net,” he said. “I am not really big on numbers. I’d like to have at least as many wins, if not more, than last year. That’s all that matters. If I do that, the other numbers will follow.”

Reiter hopes his stellar postseason play opened some professional hockey eyes along the way.

“I hope so. It’s tough to tell. I haven’t really talked to anyone myself. I know there was some interest out there,” he said. “But, I wanted to come back for my last year. As long as I play well and to my potential, I feel I’ll have opportunity to play (professionally).”

Right now, though, he’s focused on this season.

“It goes by pretty quickly,” he said. “It seems like only yesterday I was checking into the freshman dorms. It’s been a great experience. It’s going to be tough when it’s all said and done. But, I have a good year to look forward to and, hopefully, we’ll make it last as long as possible.”

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