Filip Lindberg, No. 10 UMass stonewall No. 4 Boston College, 3-1

  • UMass goaltender Filip Lindberg, shown during a game against Northeastern on Nov. 1, made a career-high 41 saves as UMass beat Boston College, 3-1, Friday in Boston. AP

Staff Writer
Published: 1/10/2020 11:02:21 PM
Modified: 1/10/2020 11:01:41 PM

BOSTON — One could excuse John Leonard for being a little fired up as he sent the puck into the empty net in front of him.

After No. 10 UMass spent more than a minute scrambling around the defensive zone trying to clear the puck, the rubber disc found its ways onto Leonard’s stick. He could probably have hit the goal from center ice or even just inside the blue line, but the Amherst native skated the puck just outside the crease before he fired it into the net with a little juice.

Leonard’s empty-net tally with 31.1 seconds left unofficially put a bow on a 3-1 win over No. 4 Boston College at Conte Forum on Friday. But the oomph the junior winger put behind the shot spoke about the importance of the victory, which snapped the Eagles’ 10-game winning streak.

“That was a big statement game for us,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “… Very proud of our group to come in and play the way they did. We bent in the second period but didn’t break then our response in the third was great. Although we got outshot tonight and out-chanced, we won the one category that you want to.”

UMass (14-6-1, 7-3-1 Hockey East) was only in the game for the final 20 minutes because of the play of sophomore Filip Lindberg. The Finnish goalie made a career-best 41 saves, standing up tall when the Minutemen needed him the most. He stopped all 32 shots he faced in the final two periods as Boston College (12-5-0, 6-3-0) kept the Minutemen pinned in their own zone for minutes at a time.

The Eagles’ pressure was at its best in the second period as a combination of UMass penalties and long shifts perpetuated a streak of Boston College dominance. As much as the Minutemen continued to throw their bodies and sticks at shots in an attempt to disrupt the motion, Lindberg needed to be at his best. His highlight-reel saves gave his team a much-needed jolt in the second period and helped them escape into the locker room tied at one.

“You’ve got to give all the credit to Fille, he played unbelievable,” Leonard said. “He made a big-time breakaway save, a couple of backdoor saves that could have easily gone in the net but he was there. A lot of credit goes to him, but the D did a great job, too, blocking shots, that’s something we focused on.”

Carvel called Lindberg’s performance arguably the best he’s seen from a goalie in his 3½ years behind the bench for the Minutemen. The sophomore, who was a seventh-round pick by the Minnesota Wild last June, outdueled his Boston College counterpart, first-round selection Spencer Knight. Although both goalies made incredible saves, Lindberg consistently wowed the crowd with his agility and quick glove hand.

In the second period, he snared a point-blank opportunity for Alex Newhook in the slot to keep the game even. In the third, he flashed the leather once more on a 2-on-1 opportunity early then followed it up with a right-pad save at full extension on a 3-on-1 break.

“We’ve had (goalies) steal some games, but maybe not as big a game as this,” Carvel said. “Especially when the opposition goalie has the numbers that he has, to win the goaltending battle tonight, we probably needed that to win, and that’s what happened.”

For Lindberg’s performance to stand up, UMass needed to find ways to solve Knight, who entered the game in the top six nationally in both goals against average (1.73) and save percentage (.940). The Minutemen were able to strike first as Leonard intercepted a pass at his own blue line and sped the other way, waiting out Knight and sliding the puck five-hole on the breakaway.

But the Minutemen didn’t consistently threaten the Boston College goalie again until the third period. Knight stopped Bobby Trivigno on an open chance near the crease with a glove save in the third, but the offense continued to flow after that. UMass created dangerous chances around the goal, but were unable to poke any of the loose pucks past the freshman.

Enter Jake Gaudet.

The junior started the game on the fourth line, where he had played since returning from injury in early December. Carvel started to send Gaudet out with the top line of Trivigno and Mitchell Chaffee midway through the third period, and that trio was on the ice for the winning goal. UMass was sustaining pressure in the Boston College end when the puck bounced off Knight into the slot for Gaudet. The center skated in and threw a shot from in tight on Knight and it slipped under the goalies armpit for the eventual winning tally.

It was Gaudet’s first goal of the season and his first extended action with the top line since the second game of the season.

“I’ve had an up-and-down season so far,” Gaudet said. “To get a goal like that and be able to be out there at an opportunity like that, it’s huge.”

These two top-10 foes will meet again Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Mullins Center. Carvel said he had already warned his team that it needed to be ready to start the contest, UMass’ first at home in more than a month. But for a few hours after the game, Carvel was able to soak up an important victory that moved the Minutemen into a three-way tie atop Hockey East after Friday’s action.

“This is one of these games where you win and afterwards you’re like ‘Oh jeez, we got two points, too, that’s a bonus,’” Carvel said.

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