From the very beginning of the season, UMass hockey coach Greg Carvel stressed that he liked the depth of this year’s squad. The Minutemen might not have any Hobey Baker candidates on the 2020-21 roster as they had the previous two seasons, but Carvel believed the offense would come from a variety of sources, while stressing that defense wins championships.
UMass rode that philosophy all the way to the Frozen Four at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh Saturday, where it captured its first national title after getting goals from five players in a 5-0 win over St. Cloud State. The Minutemen became the first Hockey East team to win the NCAA championship since Providence in 2015.
“I’m very happy for our kids,” said Carvel. “We’ve pushed them very hard the last four years, the senior class especially.”
Junior goalie Filip Lindberg, who missed Thursday’s semifinal because of COVID-19 contact tracing protocols and school policies, was back in net for UMass, recording 24 saves for his fourth career shutout in the tournament, an NCAA record.
Junior Bobby Trivigno, who took advantage of a bad line change by St. Cloud and beat St. Cloud goalie David Hrenak with a short-side wrister with 14 minutes left in the game for UMass’s fifth goal, was named the Most Oustanding Player of the tournament.
“We have a really deep team,” said Trivigno. “Our [defensemen] did a great job tonight. It was a group effort in the D zone, and it takes a lot to shut out a team. I think we earned it. They did an amazing job.”
UMass got goals from a pair of unlikely sources in the opening 20 minutes to jump out to a 2-0 lead.
Freshman Aaron Bohlinger picked a good time to get his first collegiate goal, skating the puck up ice off a turnover. It quickly became a two on none as a pair of St. Cloud skaters collided and fell down. Bohlinger broke overto the left and kicked it across ice to classmate Ryan Sullivan, who drew Hrenak to his side before sending it back to Bohlinger, who one-timed it for a 1-0 lead 7:26 into the game.
UMass’s second goal had a slight resemblance to Thursday night’s game-winner, with sophomore Cal Kiefiuk circling around the back of the net and firing the puck across the crease to Reed Lebster, who knocked it in for his second goal of the season with just 1:04 left in the first period.
“Our depth has been a huge reason why we made it to the game tonight,” said senior captain Jake Gaudet. “I’m so happy for these guys to put pucks in the net; they completely deserve it. We wouldn’t be here without a solid four-line team and we have six great [defensemen] that play outstanding and a great goalie.
St. Cloud had a chance to take the lead in the opening minutes of the game, as Veeti Miettinen fired a wrister past Lindberg, but the puck clanked off the crossbar. The Huskies would finish the first period with just three shots on goal.
A pair of special teams goals gave the Minutemen a cushion in the second period. St. Cloud appeared to have a chance to get back in the game when it went on a power play with 16:03 remaining, but Philip Lagunov turned the tables on the Huskies, causing a turnover and carrying the puck across the blue line, then deking defenseman Nick Perbix and beating Hrenak with a backhander, five-hole for a 3-0 advantage.
It was the senior’s fourth goal of the season, and 16th of his 129-game career.
“We talked a lot about five-hole goals and trying to spread the goalie open over the past few months,” said Lagunov. “In terms of putting it in, that was put in practice.”
After St. Cloud mustered just one shot on a power play midway through the period, UMass went on a power play of its own after the Huskies were whistled for too many men on the ice.
The Minutemen executed perfectly on the man advantage, keeping the puck in the St. Cloud zone and extending the lead on Matt Kessel’s one-timer from the point off a feed from Oliver Chau for a 4-0 lead with 6:45 remaining in the middle period.
The Huskies managed to get off a flurry of shots late in the period, finishing with 12 shots for a two-period total of 15, but Lindberg had the answer each time as UMass carried the 4-0 advantage into the final 20 minutes.
With the game in hand with three minutes remaining, Carvel called his team together during a timeout so they could embrace the moment.
“You don’t get an opportunity like that too often in a championship situation,” said Carvel. “I was told by some people today to enjoy the moment and soak it in, so I said that to the kids.
“The game was obviously over, and I wanted to say something to them before things got crazy. I wanted them to come in tight, and look each other in the eyes, and remember the moment, because honestly it will be the best moment of their life, and I just wanted them to hear that from me, and hear my gratitude for all they’ve done.”
Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.