UMass cruises to Hockey East Championship game with 5-2 win over Providence

Bobby Trivigno finishes with three points for second straight game

Nina+Walat

Nina Walat

By Colin McCarthy, Collegian Staff

The Massachusetts hockey team grabbed a 5-2 win over Providence in the Hockey East Tournament semifinals on Wednesday, earning a spot in the final and an opportunity to win its first HEA championship in program history.

In the previous meeting between No. 3 seeded UMass (15-5-4, 15-5-4 HEA) and the No. 5 seeded Friars (11-9-5, 11-9-5 HEA), the Minutemen were able to run away with an 8-1 win, but heading into the semifinals, head coach Greg Carvel anticipated a game more similar to their first two meetings, which ended in 0-0 and 1-1 ties.

The product on Wednesday was something in the middle. UMass never quite ran away with the score until the closing stages but found the back of the net early and often enough to remain in control for the majority of the 60 minutes.

“It’s been a crazy year, I’m so proud of our kids, tonight they played a great playoff game,” Carvel said. “The kids played hard, they played right, they played good playoff hockey and deserved to win.”

Josh Lopina got the action started just 52 seconds into the contest, getting his stick on the puck  in front of the crease and putting it past Providence goaltender Jaxson Stauber, earning the first goal of the night.

But the Friars quickly responded with back-to-back goals of their own, taking all the momentum that the Minutemen grabbed in the first minute.

But before the first period came to a close, Zac Jones zipped a shot from the blue line that found its way to the net, evening the score at 2-2.

“We were unphased,” Assistant captain Bobby Trivigno said of the first period deficit. “We’ve been in situations like that before and we just stayed the course, because if we play how we know how to play and stick to the game plan it’s going to come for us.”

In eerily similar fashion to UMass’ quarterfinal win over Northeastern, on Wednesday Trivigno earned an assist on each of the first two goals of the game, and then called his own number for the third. This time, his goal turned a tie into a lead, and a lead that the Minutemen never lost.

The majority of UMass’ control over the game came from its backend. After Filip Lindberg let up the first two goals, the Minutemen defense rallied around him and kept the scoring chances very low. That made the junior goaltender’s job much easier for the last 40 minutes.

Outside of the defense, the bottom two forward lines have stepped up in crunch time of the playoff games, providing momentum building shifts and some goalscoring as well.

Against the Huskies, it was senior Philip Lagunov rising to the occasion and providing the dagger. And on Wednesday night against the Friars, it was fellow senior George Mika who called his own number and extended UMass’ lead at a crucial time and helped secure a victory.

“That’s a huge goal, it was a one goal game and there’s eight minutes left when he scored, that was a backbreaker,” Carvel said of the fourth line center. “That was one of the bigger goals this year, I’m happy for George.”

Mika’s goal secured everything but the final score, as Marc Del Gaizo launched in an empty netter for good measure, sending the Minutemen to their first conference championship game since 2004.

And UMass will be facing a familiar foe and state rival in UMass Lowell, who won three straight playoff games including back-to-back road wins over No. 2 Boston University and No. 1 Boston College.

“What a great opportunity for both schools,” Carvel said. “We’re going to attempt to do something that we’ve never done before, and that’s fun.”

The Minutemen will remain on home ice and battle for their first HEA championship at the Mullins Center on Saturday. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m.

Colin McCarthy can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @colinmccarth_DC.