Lindberg blanks Harvard, No. 4 UMass advances in NCAA Tournament

The freshman goaltender made 17 saves in the shutout victory

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Lindberg blanks Harvard, No. 4 UMass advances in NCAA Tournament

(Photo by Judith Gibson-Okunieff)

(Photo by Judith Gibson-Okunieff)

(Photo by Judith Gibson-Okunieff)

(Photo by Judith Gibson-Okunieff)

By Liam Flaherty, Collegian Staff

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MANCHESTER, NH — The Massachusetts hockey team wasn’t ready to call it quits on Friday.

And neither was Filip Lindberg.

In his third consecutive start since replacing Matt Murray in Game 1 of the Hockey East Quarterfinals two weeks ago, the freshman continued to prove he’s worthy of the starting spot with his second shutout in his last three games.

Spurred by Lindberg’s 17 saves, No. 4 UMass beat No. 13 Harvard, 4-0, in the NCAA Northeast Regional semifinal.

“I feel good out there,” the Espoo, Finland native said. “The team played really well, which helps me with the shutout. I have good confidence right now, and I can thank my team for that.”

Although Lindberg got the nod in the prior two games and allowed just three goals, it was unknown which goalie would get the start against the Crimson (19-11-3 ECAC) before the drop of the puck.

“As a head coach, it takes a lot off your plate when you can just have a No. 1 guy and you just go with him,” coach Greg Carvel said. “But with File and Murray, they’re very pretty even goalies, they’re very similar. All year long we’ve made, I think, the right decisions; the kid that deserved to play. Murray carried the mail for a good portion of the year, but down the stretch File’s been a little bit better.”

According to Carvel, the choice wasn’t hard to make considering No. 35’s recent postseason play.

“It wasn’t a difficult decision for our staff to go with File,” he said. “But if we had to go with Murray, we’d be fine too. We should play well enough that it doesn’t matter who’s in net. Our goalies haven’t had to steal games for us this year, they just had to be real solid like File was tonight.”

The freshman was forced to make just three saves in a quiet first period. But after Anthony Del Gaizo put the Minutemen on the board late in the second, Harvard kicked it up a notch. According to Carvel, Lindberg’s response after claiming a 1-0 lead was a big difference in the outcome of the game.

“We had a couple of breakdowns which allowed them to take some pucks to the net,” he said. “The thing I like about File is his consistency. His attitude never changes, his work ethic never changes, his energy never changes. So, in the course of a game when the momentum swings to the other team, you know you’re going to get consistent effort out of him. You know exactly what you’re going to get and it’s a pretty good level of goaltending.”

With the win, the Minutemen advance to the Northeast Regional Finals on Saturday night. They will face the winner of No. 7 Clarkson and No. 12 Notre Dame. It’s just the second time in the history of the program that UMass has won an NCAA Tournament game.

“Tonight, you saw what we were capable of against a very good team,” Carvel said after blanking the Crimson. “That was a very good offensive team that we were able to keep off the board.”

Liam Flaherty can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter.