UMass hockey notebook: Filip Linberg seizes starting spot

  • Filip Lindberg earned his second consecutive Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week award after allowing just one goal in two wins over UMass Lowell. COURTESY RICHARD T. GAGNON—2021 UMass Lowell Athletics

Staff Writer
Published: 2/2/2021 6:31:59 PM

Filip Lindberg seized the UMass starting goalie spot with another dominant weekend.

The junior from Espoo, Finland, allowed just one goal across a sweep, including the Minutemen’s first win at UMass Lowell’s Tsongas Arena in more than a decade. He stopped 44 shots and saved 94.8-percent of the attempts he faced to earn Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week for the second week in a row. Last week, Lindberg shared the award with Providence netminder Jaxson Stauber.

“What Fili has done over the past four games, that’s pretty hard to top,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “He’s looked very comfortable in the net, as good as he’s played since he’s been here.”

Greg Carvel was content to ride Lindberg against the River Hawks after his strong showing returning from injury against the Friars. He’s said all season he wants a goalie to force him to play them every game.

For a stretch, that was Matt Murray. The senior started 11 games in a row and went 8-3, including a seven-game winning streak. Lindberg was injured for part of that stretch.

“I have no stats or science to back this up, but I believe when players have long-term injuries and are forced to watch from a distance, it helps them gain a different perspective and it helps them iron out things they struggle with,” Carvel said. “His qualify of play is based more on mental than physical, he’s a very physically capable goalie. Since he’s come back he’s been mentally on top of his game.”

Lindberg’s started the past four games and allowed just two goals. UMass (11-5-3) didn’t lose in regulation, going 2-0-2.

“I would love one of them to just win every game and I never have to think about it,” Carvel said. 

But as has been the case for the past three years, if Lindberg slips then the pendulum will swing back to Murray. There are worst problems.

“If we ever have to, we fall back on a great option if we need to,” Carvel said. “I would love to win every game and whichever one of those goalies can do that for us, we’ll ride them as long as we can.”

TIME TO REST – UMass won’t play this weekend, Hockey East announced Tuesday. The Minutemen’s next game is Feb. 9 at Northeastern.

The Minutemen have played 19 games this season, three more than any other team in the conference and the most in the nation. They’ve played a series against every Hockey East opponent except Maine.

“We’re going to use this as a little bit of a chance to rest and refuel,” Carvel said. “Hopefully the rest of the way we’re playing games every weekend. I really like where the group is at”

It’s unclear how many weekends are left in the regular season. The conference hasn’t announced the dates or format of the Hockey East tournament. Typically the tournament begins in early to mid-March with opening-round and quarterfinal series on campus sites. Then the semifinals and finals were at Boston’s TD Garden.

“I’d like every team to be in the playoffs due to the inequality of the schedule. It doesn’t appear we’ll be going to any big venue, there’ll be no fans,” Carvel said. “I’m guessing it’ll be single elimination, and I’m guessing the higher seed hosts. I’m good with that. That seems like the appropriate thing to do this year.”

UNCUT GEM – Matt Kessel has flown under the radar as an NHL prospect. The sophomore was drafted by St. Louis last year in the fifth round. He isn’t ranked one of the top 10 prospects in the Blues system, but Carvel thinks he’s one of the best prospects the Minutemen have. There are four draft picks on UMass’ roster: Kessel, Zac Jones (New York Rangers), Marc Del Gaizo (Nashville) and Lindberg (Minnesota). Jones was the highest pick in the third round, and Del Gaizo was selected in the fourth round.

“He’s a big horse of a kid. You watch the game, he’s effective in every area,” Carvel said. “He is absolutely an NHL prospect, but there’s still room for growth. I don’t know if he’ll make it four years here, he’s not ready yet, but he will be at some point.”

Kessel and Jones are tied for the most points in Hockey East by a defenseman at 16. Nine of Kessel’s points are goals, which already surpassed his freshman year total despite playing half as many games.

“I think I always had it in me, but a lot of the coaching staff didn’t know that,” Kessel said. “It comes from a lot of the time on the ice here and even in the gym getting better and it goes along with the coaching staff believing in me and continuing to improve.”

RICHTER SCALE – Murray was named to the Mike Richter Award Watch List on Tuesday. The award is annually given to the top goalie in the nation. He’s one of six Hockey East goaltenders on the list.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.

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