Minutemen cruise to NCAA Regional Finals with 4-0 victory over Harvard

Senior Brett Boeing scores his third and fourth goals of the postseason

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Minutemen cruise to NCAA Regional Finals with 4-0 victory over Harvard

(Jon Asgeirsson/Daily Collegian)

(Jon Asgeirsson/Daily Collegian)

(Jon Asgeirsson/Daily Collegian)

(Jon Asgeirsson/Daily Collegian)

By Mollie Walker, Assistant Sports Editor

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MANCHESTER–It was a whole new tournament for the Massachusetts hockey team, and they played like it.

UMass (29-9-0) made up for its early exit in the Hockey East Tournament and advanced to the NCAA Regional Finals after blanking Harvard (19-11-3), 4-0, Friday afternoon at Southern New Hampshire University Arena.

Despite going scoreless for four consecutive periods between last weekend and this one, the Minutemen found their stride by the second period and were able to run away with the win.

“That was a solid game for us,” coach Greg Carvel said. “All year long, every time we’ve lost a game we’ve come back strong and that was the case again tonight. We had a game plan and I thought our guys executed extremely well.

“Great to get a victory over a solid team like Harvard. It’s great for our program that hasn’t been to the NCAAs in 12 years.”

UMass outshot Harvard 36-17 throughout the evening, holding the Crimson to under 10 shots per period. The Minutemen were unforgiving on the penalty kill, stifling both of Harvard’s man-advantage opportunities with only two shots allowed.

The Minutemen came out with a whole different set of energy that wasn’t visible at TD Garden, outshooting the Crimson 12-3 through the opening 20 minutes. Harvard thought they had the first goal of the afternoon, but a call for goaltender interference kept it a 0-0 contest.

Eight minutes into the second, Jack Donato finessed a breakaway that looked promising before Cale Makar swooped in and pick-pocketed the sophomore before he could even get a shot off on UMass netminder Filip Lindberg.

Minutes later Lindberg made a huge pad-save on Nathan Krusko with nine minutes left before the third. Shortly after, UMass tilted the ice and piled on the pressure around the crease before Anthony Del Gaizo could tap it home for the first goal of the afternoon.

“We had a game plan and the guys executed it to a tee; generated a lot of offense,” Carvel said. “It looked like another one of those games like last Friday where we were getting a lot of chances and just couldn’t get the puck in, but once we got one in pucks started flowing to the net.”

UMass carried the one-goal lead into the second intermission, and Harvard retook the ice prepared to fight for its season. Lindberg spoiled a handful of Crimson opportunities in the final frame to maintain the lead, but he didn’t have to work too hard for long.

At the 7:24 mark of the third, pressure around the Harvard crease paid off for John Leonard as he managed to squeak one past Lackey in a sequence that could only be seen from the cameras inside of the net.

Brett Boeing made it a three-goal game less than two minutes later off a hard move to the cage that he managed to finesse into a stretch shot that beat Lackey blocker side. Desperation began to set in for the Crimson in the final minutes, as Ted Donato pulled Lackey with over four minutes left in regulation.

UMass survived the 6-on-4 skid and Boeing registered his second goal of the night and fourth goal of the postseason on the empty net.

Lindberg turned aside all 17 shots he faced, while Michael Lackey stopped 32 of the 35 shots he faced.

“Our program doesn’t have a lot of history, but that team in 2007 is something that we’ve always looked up to and wanted to make those guys proud, the last team that made the NCAAs,” Carvel said. “Really proud of my team tonight.

“They played extremely hard and played playoff hockey.”

The Minutemen will face the winner of Notre Dame and Clarkson for the Regional Finals Saturday night.

Mollie Walker can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MollieeWalkerr.