The University of Massachusetts men’s hockey team will be without four players for Thursday’s NCAA Frozen Four game vs. Minnesota-Duluth, including its starting goalie and top goal scorer, because of COVID-19 contact tracing protocols and school policies.
Forward Carson Gicewicz, who leads the Minutemen with 17 goals, and goalie Filip Lindberg, who is 9-1-4 on the season, will miss the game, along with forward Jerry Harding and goalie Henry Graham.
“I feel for these players who have sacrificed so much over the last year and committed themselves to getting our team to this point,” coach Greg Carvel said in a statement. “They have earned the right to compete for a national championship, and to have this unfortunate situation occur now is hard to comprehend. But nevertheless, it’s a result that we have to accept, and we will move forward together and utilize the depth of our roster for Thursday’s game in Pittsburgh.”
It was Gicewicz who helped send UMass to the Frozen Four with a hat trick in the 4-0 win against Bemidji State in the regional final.
Lindberg has started the last 12 games in net, garnering a .946 save percentage and a 1.32 goals-against average.
Senior Matt Murray would appear to get the call in net. He is 9-4 with a .913 save percentage and 2.01 GAA season but has not appeared in a game since Jan. 18.
The team was forced to pause for two weeks in February, as the school saw a continuing surge of COVID-19 cases that led to a break for all athletic activities. The men’s hockey team had been spared though, and just last week Carvel reiterated that there had not been a positive test for a member of the team all season.
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy weighed in on UMass’s unfortunate development on Tuesday afternoon.
“It would have been awful,” Cassidy said when asked how it would have affected him as a young player. “You play your whole season for that. At their age, their whole life is school, obviously your family, and hockey.
“To not be able to get a chance, especially after going through a tough division where there’s some high-end schools and they finally push through and the program looks like it’s really excelling, so I feel bad for those kids.”
UMass (18-5-4) will take on two-time defending champion Minnesota-Duluth on Thursday at 9 p.m. (ESPN2) in a rematch of the 2019 NCAA championship game. The winner will advance to Saturday’s national championship game against St. Cloud State or Minnesota State.
Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.