The UMass hockey team’s second trip to the Frozen Four has started off much like its first one from 2019, when the Minutemen needed overtime to defeat Denver in the nightcap of the semifinals. This year, they overcame another NCHC foe in overtime, dethroning two-time defending champion Minnesota Duluth, 3-2 shortly after midnight to return to the championship game at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.
Now the team is hoping to draw on that experience and forge a different path from the one that led them to a 3-0 loss in the championship game in Buffalo two years ago.
“That experience was really critical,” said UMass coach Greg Carvel. “The first time you get here, it’s fun, it’s exciting. You’ve never done it before. The second time, you’re more on a mission.”
After defeating the Pioneers, UMass held a practice on the off-day before the championship game. There was also the matter of the Hobey Baker Award ceremony, with Cale Makar participating in an autograph session after practice, then accepting the trophy later that evening.
“We just ran around last time,” said Carvel. “So today the kids are resting. Last time we didn’t notice Duluth running around. They knew enough to let their kids rest.”
UMass’ depth paid off in the win over Duluth, skating all four lines as it wore the Bulldogs down in overtime, but the Minutemen might not enjoy that advantage Saturday night. St. Cloud can also roll out four lines, with the Huskies’ fourth line of Will Hammer, Jared Cockrell, and Joe Molenaar accounting for two goals in the 5-4 win over Minnesota State.
That’s not the only similarity between the two teams.
“I think it’s going to be two teams with very similar game plans, that play hard, that play fast,” said St. Cloud State coach Brett Larson, who, like Carvel, acknowledged a lack of sleep Thursday night. “They have high work ethic, I can see that. They have high skill. They’re not afraid to get to the tough areas so it’s certainly going to be a battle.”
The Huskies played a trap against Minnesota State, and even as they trailed 4-3 in the third period, they managed to stick with it and rally for the win. UMass tends to let their defensemen be more aggressive — that was evident Thursday night, with Marc Del Gaizo, Zac Jones, and Matt Kessel pinching down at times to create more pressure as the team looked to generate offense.
“It’s one thing we’ll have to prepare our players for,” said Carvel. “It’s probably a little bit out of the norm. You don’t see that a lot. Usually the teams are coming aggressively at you. They’re playing a style that kind of sits back and let you make mistakes and counter. We haven’t really seen that a lot. We’ll have to be ready for it or else we’ll pay the price.”
While the team was looking to move on from Thursday night’s win to focus on the championship game, junior forward Anthony Del Gaizo, who scored the game-tying goal, talked about his team’s approach in the third period.
“Nobody gives speeches like coach. He got us fired up. We came back and played a great game, and I think we’re going to try to carry that momentum into Saturday night,” said Del Gaizo“It’s just all about our culture. It’s bigger than us. When we play these games, it’s not just about the guys in the locker room. It’s about the guys that played before us, that left huge legacies. That was his message.”
The team should have some reinforcements for the title game. Forward Carson Gicewicz, who leads the Minutemen with 17 goals, and No. 1 goalie Filip Lindberg arrived in Pittsburgh on Friday after quarantining in Amherst all week because of COVID-19 contact tracing protocols and school policies. They would remain in quarantine through Friday night. Senior Matt Murray stepped up in Lindberg’s absence against Duluth, recording 36 saves for the win. Carvel was not ready to announce who would get the call in net for Saturday.
“I haven’t seen the kids yet,” said Carvel. “Until I see them, I won’t make any decisions on anything.”
Puck drop is at 7 p.m. Saturday. The game will air on ESPN.
|UMass||St. Cloud State|
|Rank||No. 2||No. 3|
|Goals scored per game||3.5||3.4|
Wisconsin’s Caufield wins Hobey Baker, UMass’ Trivigno, Gicewicz named All-Americans
Wisconsin’s Cole Caufield was named the 2021 recipient of the Hobey Baker Award on Friday, taking home college hockey’s top individual prize. The sophomore led the nation in scoring with 52 points on 30 goals and 22 assists, becoming the first player in the history of the Big Ten hockey conference to notch back-to-back conference scoring titles. Caufield signed with the Montreal Canadiens on an entry-level deal after the Badgers’ exit from the NCAA Tournament.
The national finalist Minutemen will have two All-Americans in the lineup, with Trivigno (First Team) and Jones (Second Team) earning their first All-America honors. Boston College’s Spencer Knight, Matt Boldy, and Drew Helleson, Boston University’s David Farrance, and American International’s Brennan Kapcheck were also named All-Americans.
Follow Andrew Mahoney @GlobeMahoney.