Minutemen Experience Too Much for Huskies

Massachusetts Edges Connecticut in OT, Win 2nd Straight HEA Tourney

Boston, MA – The script has been followed before. A talented new kid on the block, the up-and-coming program, is ready to ascend. They just have to knock out the bigshot, the schoolyard heavy, the team with the hardware and accolades. The Connecticut Huskies, in their eighth season in Hockey East, were experiencing their furthest foray into the HEA playoffs. They won their first postseason game over traditional powerhouse Boston University; then, they knocked off the regular season champs Northeastern in their first trip to TD Garden. In their first-ever Hockey East Finals stood the reigning tourney champion, and defending National Champion, Massachusetts Minutemen.

The script was going according to plan for Mike Cavanaugh and his Huskies. The only problem was Greg Carvel knew the script all too well. In his six years at the Massachusetts helm, Carvel has helped the Minutemen crash the party locally and nationally. Two Frozen Four appearances and three trips to the final four in HEA play. Now it is the Minutemen who have the experience, pedigree, and the target on their backs. 

It’s not championship season in NCAA without some overtime to crown the king, and the Minutemen weren’t ready to give up theirs. At 3:06 of extra time, defenseman Aaron Bohlinger caught a Bobby Trivigno pass at the top of the left circle and fired off a shot that beat Darion Hanson through traffic for the 2-1 victory. Bohlinger added to his legacy with his second goal of the season and kicked off the Minutemen celebration in front of 12,049 raucous fans. 

“I was real concerned, UConn has been playing so well, it just seemed to be, maybe, their time,” said Carvel. “Maybe we had our time. The first period wasn’t great, but the second half of the game I thought we were outstanding. It was kind of like last year against Duluth (NCAA Semifinals), it felt like it was just a matter of time before we going to score to win.”

“I’m so proud of our kids,” continued Carvel. “This was really hard to defend this year. Last year it is three games at the Mullins Center to be champions. This was just a little more exciting this year, but it feels equally awesome.” 

“Obviously it feels great,” said Bohlinger. “But I think just winning, and we did it pretty early (in overtime), which is nice. You don’t have to worry about it anymore, but we knew we had them on their heels. We just did the right things, great pass. Put it on net and good thing happen.”

Massachusetts Minutemen forward Bobby Trivigno’s shot on goal to tie the game at 1-1 against the Connecticut Huskies in the HOckey East Championship Finals on Saturday, March 19, 2022 at TD Garden.

Massachusetts outshot the Huskies 10-3 in the first period, but the Huskies had the better scoring chances and carried the play throughout the first twenty minutes. Huskies center Jachcym Kondelik had a shot shouldered away by Murray early. 

“He’s been phenomenal for us through this whole stretch, through the whole year,” said Bohlinger on Murray’s play. “He’s special, and definitely, defense is our focus, and he makes our lives a lot easier consistently. We’re so grateful, thankful, and lucky to have him.” 

After an Interference call penalty on UConn’s Chase Bradley, the Minutemen had the game’s first power-play. Massachusetts put three shots on goal, but Hanson (31 saves) was solid. 

Murray padded away another Kondelik shot later in the third after the 6′-5″ Czech kept the puck on a two-on-one with Bradley. 

“What a great kid he is. He sat back and let Filip Lindberg carry the mail,” said Carvel when asked what Murray has meant to the Minutemen. “He did it with so much class and he could have made it uncomfortable for me. He didn’t he made it easy for me. Then he won that semifinal game (Duluth in last season’s NCAA semis) in overtime. We decided to go back with Filip and he couldn’t have been more of a gentleman, more class.”

“We had to kind of recruit him to come back for another year and promised him the net,” added coach of Murray’s decision to return for a graduate year. “Boy, he’s had the net except for one game. He’s a competent goalie. Just a high-quality person.”

The Huskies pulled ahead early in the second period on a Vladislav Firstov re-direct past Murray. Connecticut defenseman Carter Berger fired off a shot from the left point that Murray stopped. The rebound flew towards the opposite side of the blue line, where John Spetz snapped it back towards Murray. Firstov stepped in front of Murray to get a stick on the puck and tipped it through Murray’s legs to make it 1-0. Firstov’s 12th of the season was also the third straight UConn game in which Firstov scored the opening goal.

Massachusetts tied it late in the period on a Trivigno breakaway. The Minutemen senior captain received a Colin Felix pass from the UMass zone that sent the 5′-8″ Trivigno in on Hanson for the five-hole shot to tie the game 1-1 at 16:06. Felix intercepted a Huskies pass while defending a UConn three-on-two just over the UMass blue line a connected with Trivigno just over the red line for his 20th goal. 

“I don’t think we were playing bad until that point, but when they scored, it was ‘we gotta go, gotta get something going here,'” said Trivigno of his goal. I kind of got lucky on that goal. I was just waiting for the puck to settle. I literally just shot it on the net, and it went in. In that game, being down by one goal and one shot can go in the net, and it is tied. So that’s just what I did, I put it on the net, and it went in.”

“He’s the most unique kid I’ve ever coached. It’s not even close,” said Carvel of Trivigno, the Hockey East Player of the Year. “He never gets tired, he never has bad attitude, he never gets out willed. Never, never, never. Every single day. He’s the hardest working kid. He has a fire inside him. On match, not even close. Unbelievable.”

“He’s a two time MVP of this tournament. He’s a two time First-Teamer,” continued the coach in his praise. “It’s hard for me to explain. He is the most unique player. He’s a very humble too. You guys watch him and other teams run at him. You ever see him fall down? You got to hit him from behind to knock him down. I have so much respect for this kid. I could go on for a long time, he’s a really special kid.”

Through sixty minutes of action, the Huskies and Minutemen had traded blows only to be tied 1-1. Massachusetts had a few quality looks at the Huskies net, but Hanson gobbled up everything. During a slogging third period, the Minutemen outshot the Huskies 7-2. 

Massachusetts Minutemen defenseman Aaron Bohlinger fires off his game-winning goal in overtime to beat the Connecticut Huskies 2-1 and capture the Hockey East Championship for the second straight year.

In overtime, the stage was set for Bohlinger’s postseason heroics. The 5′-9″ sophomore from Walden, NY., came into the game with two goals in 57 games played for the Minutemen. Last season, his lone goal proved to be the game-winning goal in Massachusetts’s 5-0 win over St. Cloud St. in the NCAA Championship. 

“He told me after the game he ‘only scores in championships,” said Carvel. “He’s got two career goals and they both are game winning goals in the championship game.”

In winning the Hockey East trophy, the Minutemen clinch the automatic berth to the NCAA tournament that begins Thursday in Albany, NY., and Loveland, CO., and continues Friday in Worcester, MA., and Allentown, PA. Massachusetts is the eighth team to go back-to-back in the HEA tourney and the first since UMass-Lowell in 2013 and 2014. 

The Huskies season is over, but it was a successful one nonetheless. The Huskies won 20 games in their Hockey East stint for the first time. They finish in fifth-place after having finished fourth the previous two seasons. 

“I’d like to congratulate Greg and the University of Massachusetts,” said UConn’s Cavanaugh. ” I thought they played a great game tonight and really had us on our heels for a good portion of the game.”

“We fought, we clawed and we hung in there and we gave ourselves a chance to get over time and and win our first title but just wasn’t meant to be tonight,” Cavanaugh added. “So my sincere congratulations to Greg and his staff and their team.”

“I don’t know. I told the team that. I don’t know if experience always matters,” said Cavanaugh of the experience factor. “I was a coach on a team (Assistant at Boston College) in 2011 that had a lot of players with two National Championships and three Hockey East championships and Colorado College came in and beat us in the first round because they played better than we did. I think it was simply that UMass played better than we did. I don’t think it was the experience of it.”

“For the last three years, we finished in the top five in the league. There’s 11 teams in this league,” said Cavanaugh. “In the last few years, we finished fourth. I think that says something on consistency and where the program’s going.”

Massachusetts Minutemen captain Bobby Trivigno celebrates with the Lamoriello Trophy as the Hockey East Championship banner makes it’s way to the rafters of TD Garden on March 19, 2022.

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