Pittsburgh, PA.- The University of Massachusetts Minutemen are NCAA Ice Hockey National Champions. The Minutemen took the game to the St. Cloud St. Huskies from opening puck drop and never looked back. A stout team defense mirrored the physical offensive effort, lead by junior goaltender Filip Lindberg (25 saves), who spent the last eight days in quarantine for COVID protocols. Lindberg earned his fourth shutout in the 5-0 win in front of 3,963 at PPG Paints Arena in his return.
“The guys on the D, they played well in front of me. They saved my ass a couple of times,” said Lindberg. “And I mean, I’m just so happy. We all played well. And we deserved the win tonight.”
Reed Lebster made it 2-0 Minutemen when he banged home a rebound of Cal Kiefuik’s wraparound attempt at 18:56.
The Minutemen got the early jump on the Huskies at 7:26 of the first. Defenseman Aaron Bohlinger led a two-on-zero, as Huskies defensemen took each other out off the play at the UMASS blue line. Bohlinger and Ryan Sullivan raced into the Huskies zone, with Bohlinger passing to Sullivan and Sullivan returning it to Bohlinger to blast the puck past the outstretched legs of David Hrenak (17 saves). The goal was Bohlinger’s first of his NCAA career.
St. Cloud had a power-play just twenty-four seconds into the middle frame when Umass’ Sullivan was called for Tripping.
However, UMass had the special teams mojo as forward Philip Lagunov chased down a blocked shot, then deked on Huskies defenseman Nick Perbix and then beat Hrenak five-hole to make it 3-0. Lagunov’s goal was his fourth of the season.
“It happened really fast. I kind of blacked out,” said Lagunov of his goal. “The guy was diving down towards me, so I used my space to try to beat him. So, it all happened really fast.”
UMASS piled on with a power-play goal at 13:45 of the second when Matthew Kessel’s slap shot from the top of the right circle found the back of the net. Kessel’s 10th goal of the year was assisted by seniors Oliver Chau and Jake Gaudet.
Junior forward Bobby Trivigno put any hopes of a St. Cloud comeback when he buried a Lebster stretch pass past Hrenak from the left face-off dot making it 5-0 Minutemen. Trivigno and Lebster caught the Huskies in a line change.
“We have a really deep team. Our D did a great job tonight,” said junior Trivgino. “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.”
“We thought we got a lot of offensive zone early, and then, unfortunately, we have a player blow an edge and take another player out, and they get a two-on-oh,” said St. Cloud St. head coach Brett Larson. “All of a sudden, you’re down 1-0 even though you really like the start. They get a late goal in the period on a wrap-around play. And I felt like we started pressing a little bit too early.”
“We tried to make kind of a zone entry play that was a tough play. And then a one-on-one type situation where we probably got a little overaggressive on it. And I thought that was the turning point of the game then when they went up 3-0,” added Larson when asked about Lagunov’s short-handed goal.
An emotional Massachusetts Greg Carvel had to take a step away from the podium to collect himself after the game. Carvel touched on some emotional events in his life when asked about what his thoughts were when he held the National Championship trophy high above his head.
“To be honest, a couple things,” said Carvel.” Obviously, my family. And then the people who, when you win your first national championship, you really want to think about the people that laid the foundation, and yesterday was a bit emotional because Red Gendron was one of those people. And I loved Red. And he was a big part. He worked with Toot (Cahoon) when UMass had some really good teams. When I lifted that trophy, I thought of people like that and former players.”
“And I also think about how important it is for our university to have a championship like this. And all the great people at the University of Massachusetts, and one of them was my father-in-law, who was a philosophy professor for 35 years at UMass. He passed away two weeks ago. And he was a great supporter of mine.”
“And it’s just people like that that this trickles down to a lot of people. And I’m just happy that obviously happy for the people in the program right now. But so many people that this will trickle down through that they can take pride in it.”