UMass exacts revenge with 3-2 overtime win over Minnesota Duluth

Minutemen earn another opportunity to fight for a national championship

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Nina Walat/Daily Collegian

By Colin McCarthy, Collegian Staff

It was déjà vu for the Massachusetts hockey team that saw its semifinal game need overtime, much like it had against Denver in the 2019 Semifinal. Only this time the opponent was Minnesota Duluth, who spoiled the Minutemen’s 2019 run in the final.

This year, UMass (19-5-4, 13-5-4 Hockey East) exacted its revenge against the Bulldogs (15-11-2, 13-9-2 National Collegiate Hockey Conference) when Garrett Wait slid the puck into the back of the net in front to give the Minutemen a 3-2 victory and earn a return trip to the national championship.

“Duluth’s the best team we’ve played this year, they played a really heavy style that we’re not used to playing,” coach Greg Carvel said following the win. “I thought our guys did a great job in the third period… And the overtime was pretty lopsided.”

The first period saw UMass jump out to a 1-0 lead courtesy of a Zac Jones snipe from the blue line, weaving the puck past everybody in front on its way to the top right corner 15 minutes into the frame.

But Minnesota Duluth quickly bounced back, and before long it was even once again. The Bulldogs added another goal midway through the second, and controlled play for much of that frame.

The Minutemen had a golden opportunity to tie the game back up before that period came to a close, when Aaron Bohlinger came off the bench and right into the action, intercepting a pass in the offensive zone and walking in on Minnesota Duluth goalie Zach Stejskal. But rather than attempting a shot, the freshman d-man passed the puck off to Reed Lebster, who was stuffed by Stejskal’s right pad.

That miscue kept UMass behind one entering the final 20 minutes, and although the Bulldogs continued to cause trouble, the Minutemen did not give up in front of the net, and Anthony Del Gaizo punched the puck past Stejskal to even the game back up with just over 10 minutes to play.

“That goal he scored, that’s what we were hoping for from him,” Carvel said. “That was probably the biggest goal of the year for us, even bigger than the overtime goal.”

Del Gaizo slotted into the top line in the absence of Carson Gicewicz, who was held out of the semifinal due to COVID-19 protocols. The younger of the two Del Gaizos rose to the occasion and played one of the best games of his career.

That brought the game into overtime, where the Minutemen took over, peppering Stejskal with shot after shot and outplaying the reigning National Champions for most of the period. And that culminated with Wait’s goal in the waning minutes of the extra frame.

“It was pretty cool, something that everybody dreams about,” Wait said of his game winner.

UMass’ success in overtime was helped in part by its commitment to running four lined all the way down the stretch, as opposed to Minnesota Duluth, who shortened their bench in the third.

“I think Duluth ran out of gas because they didn’t run four lines,” Carvel said. “The one thing about this team is they know what makes them good, and when they smelt blood in the water, I just thought they took it up a notch.”

Matt Murray stepped up to replace Filip Lindberg— another casualty of UMass’ COVID-19 troubles— And tossed aside a litany of shots for nearly 80 minutes, finishing the night with 36 saves.

The Minutemen will be getting back three players from COVID-19 protocols, including Gicewicz and Lindberg. And with that comes a decision for Carvel, who will have his hot hand in net returning, but also just watched Murray earn the biggest win of his career to get to the final game.

With the win on Thursday night, UMass will have another opportunity to win its first ever national championship when it takes on St. Cloud State Saturday night.

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