UMass qualifies for its first Frozen Four appearance in program history

The Minutemen defeated Notre Dame, 4-0, to advance to Buffalo

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UMass qualifies for its first Frozen Four appearance in program history

(Jon Asgeirsson/Daily Collegian)

(Jon Asgeirsson/Daily Collegian)

(Jon Asgeirsson/Daily Collegian)

(Jon Asgeirsson/Daily Collegian)

By Liam Flaherty, Collegian Staff

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MANCHESTER — Here come the Minutemen.

For the first time in program history, No. 4 UMass is headed to the Frozen Four.

After taking care of No. 13 Harvard in the semifinal on Friday to advance to the Northeast Regional Final on Saturday, the Minutemen (30-9-0) were a team on a mission, and they would not be denied.

Spurred by a trio of second-period goals from Jake Gaudet, John Leonard, and Cale Makar, as well as the second shutout of the NCAA Tournament from Filip Lindberg, UMass pummeled No. 12 Notre Dame (23-14-3), 4-0, to put its name in the history books.

“We knew we had a good team this year,” coach Greg Carvel said. “We proved a lot of things throughout the year, but we always felt like people were waiting for us to trip and stumble and fall, and we kind of did that at BC last weekend, but this weekend we redeemed ourselves and I’m extremely proud of this group; my staff, players, the administration. This is a first for our program. We didn’t stumble into this. We knocked the door down and we’re headed to the Frozen Four flying high.”

The Minutemen put a stranglehold on the Fighting Irish right out of the gate in front of a raucous crowd of 5,679 and, when all was said and done, they outshot ND, 34-13.

After dominating a scoreless first period, UMass capitalized in the second.

When Mario Ferraro tried to dump the puck into the Fighting Irish zone, it bounced off the official and skittered over to the right faceoff dot to Gaudet. Wasting no time, the sophomore took advantage of the lucky hop and, after settling it down, he curled back a wrister and unleashed it on Cale Morris (30 saves). The shot snuck through his five-hole and gave the Minutemen the crucial first goal of the game.

Three minutes later, UMass bolstered its lead.

After Makar carried the puck over the blue line and into the offensive zone, he dropped it off to the stick of Brett Boeing, who whipped a shot on Morris from the right faceoff dot. When the puck bounced off his chest and landed in the net-front area, this time, Leonard was the one waiting.

The Amherst native collected the loose puck, calmly put a dangle on the 2018 Mike Richter Award winner and beat him with a smooth flick of the wrist to push the advantage to 2-0 midway through the do-or-die affair.

But UMass wasn’t ready to take its foot off the gas just yet.

With five minutes left in the period, Makar made it 3-0. After Gaudet won the faceoff and sent it back to Marc Del Gaizo at the point, the All-Rookie Team defenseman faked a shot on net and passed it over to Makar on the opposite side of the point. In one motion, the Hobey Baker finalist wound up and ripped a screaming one-timer that beat Morris on his blocker side for his third of the postseason.

When Morris was pulled in the final minutes, Oliver Chau iced the victory with an empty-netter.

“That was maybe as complete a game that we’ve played this year,” Carvel said, “and this weekend I thought we were out-standing for 120 minutes. I thought we controlled the play for two complete games. The team responded well from the loss last weekend at BC, which was discouraging, but this group has had a common purpose and it goes deeper than the team, it’s through our whole university.”

For Carvel, three years and a day removed from being hired as head coach, advancing to the program’s first-ever Frozen Four is the culmination of a lot of hard work that, at first, seemed like a feat out of reach.

“When I came to this program, one of my biggest goals was to bring pride to all of the former players who wore the sweater,” he said after the historic win. “When I took this job, everybody wanted to talk about the sleeping giant and I said, ‘Well, if we can put a team on the ice that people can be proud of and is entertaining to watch, then we’ll wake that giant.’

“This year, we’ve done that.”

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