UMass hockey wins 1st national title by dominating St. Cloud State

  • UMass senior forward Garrett Wait handles the puck in front of David Hrenak of St. Cloud State Huskies during the Division I Men's Ice Hockey Championship held at PPG Paints Arena on April 10, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Justin K. Aller

  • UMass junior goalie Filip Lindberg protects the net against St. Cloud State during the Division I Men's Ice Hockey Championship held at PPG Paints Arena on April 10, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Justin K. Aller

Staff Writer
Published: 4/10/2021 9:43:12 PM
Modified: 4/10/2021 11:26:33 PM

PITTSBURGH – The second time around, the UMass hockey team ensured it finished the job.

The Minutemen won their first-ever national championship Saturday night, dominating St. Cloud State, 5-0. The game was in hand for the entire third period, so they had an opportunity to savor the accomplishment before the final horn blew when they piled on goalie Filip Lindberg.

“It's crazy. It's literally unbelievable. I'm so happy for this group,” UMass junior Bobby Trivigno said. “Watching the clock tick down, we earned this win for sure. I'm just so happy to be part of it. So happy to be part of a great program. And it's just the best feeling in the world right now.”

UMass was shut out by Minnesota Duluth in 2019 but didn’t take long to light the lamp and trigger firework showers at PPG Paints Arena.

Freshman defenseman Aaron Bohlinger’s first career goal gave UMass its first-ever lead in the national championship game. The Minutemen were shut out in 2019. Bohlinger finished a 2-on-0 pass from Ryan Sullivan 7 minutes, 26 seconds in. He carried the puck up the ice after Cal Kiefiuk deflected it in the defensive zone to an inch-perfect spot to start the break. One of St. Cloud State’s defenders lost an edge on his skate and collided with a teammate to open the space.

Sullivan and Bohlinger approached the net from opposite sides then circled around to hug after the puck hit the netting.

UMass’ vaunted penalty kill was called into service 15:27 in after an Anthony Del Gaizo cross check. UMass only allowed one shot on goal and calmly snuffed out the chance.

The Minutemen doubled their lead with 1:04 remaining in the period. Kiefiuk carried the puck behind the net and found Reed Lebster on the back step across the crease. Lebster buried his first goal since Jan. 6, just his second of the season, to make it 2-0.

“Our depth has been a huge reason why we made it to (Saturday’s) game. I'm so happy for these guys to put pucks in the net; they completely deserve it,” UMass senior aptain Jake Gaudet said. “We wouldn't be here without a solid four-line team and we have six great D that play outstanding and a great goalie. And I think that's the difference between their team this year and our team two years ago is we can roll four lines and be successful.”

UMass was initially off sides on the play, but St. Cloud State gained possession, and UMass took it back, negating the potential call.

“We thought we had a good first period. You wouldn't know it by the score, but we controlled the territory,” St. Cloud State coach Brett Larson said. “Our main goal was to make them defend as much as possible.”

St. Cloud State nearly took a quick lead before many got into their seats when Veeti Miettinen hit the crossbar 90 seconds in. He beat Lindberg’s glove but couldn’t keep the shot down enough.

“I don't want to think about that. It was just a one chance, hit the crossbar, and that's it,” Miettinen said. “It didn't go in so it doesn't matter.”

Gaudet drew UMass’ first penalty 24 seconds into the second period after Seamus Donohue tripped him behind the St. Cloud State net. The Minutemen couldn’t generate any chances with a man advantage. In fact, St. Cloud State created more dangerous opportunities shorthanded. 

That became a theme in the period. UMass went down a man again 3:57 into the second when Ryan Sullivan was whistled for tripping. A minute, 13 seconds into the power play, UMass senior center Philip Lagunov chased down a deflected pass in his defensive zone and raced up the ice. St. Cloud State defenseman Nick Perbix, a Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick, stood between him and the goal. Lagunov slid the puck between Perbix’s stick and skates then regained possesson on the other side. alone with Huskies goalie David Hrenak, Lagunov faked right then slid a backhanded shot between Hrenak’s legs. The puck stalled briefly in the crease after bouncing off Hrenak, and Lagunov watched it from behind the net. It carried enough momentum to cross the goal line, and Lagunov fist-pumped in triumph with a 3-0 lead.

“It happened really fast. I kind of blacked out,” Lagunov said. “The guy was diving down towards me so I used my space to try to beat him.”

UMass’ second power play went much better than its previous extra-man situation. The Minutemen parked in St. Cloud State’s zone and worked the puck around the net. Oliver Chau teed up a clear line for Matthew Kessel, who walloped it into the net to make it 4-0.

“I thought special teams were outstanding. Our first power play was pretty ugly,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “Second one was great. Guys were moving the puck around really well. And I thought we had a couple of good bids to score.

“But our penalty kill had to be good because we took three or four penalties tonight which is a lot more than we've had in a long time,” he continued. “But we try to be a really good defensive team and really good team on special teams, and we were both tonight. And that was the difference in the game.”

Trivigno, who was suspended for the 2019 title game, put the final nail in the coffin six minutes into the third period. He intercepted a pass at the left circle during a subpar Huskies line change and calmly slotted a wrist shot in the net to make it 5-0. Lebster added an assist on the play.

“It's crazy. Just where I was two years ago to now, as far as emotionally, is worlds of difference,” Trivigno said. “And I'm just so grateful I got to play and be part of this amazing team, amazing program, amazing school. I'm just grateful for everything.”

Lindberg made 25 saves for his third NCAA Tournament shutout.

“It was a group effort in the D zone, and it takes a lot to shut out a team,” Trivigno said. “I think we earned it.”

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