After missing semifinal, Filip Lindberg seals the deal with title-game shutout

  • Massachusetts goaltender Filip Lindberg (35) stops a shot by St. Cloud State's Nolan Walker (20) during the second period of the NCAA men's Frozen Four hockey championship game in Pittsburgh, Saturday. AP

Staff Writer
Published: 4/11/2021 12:09:01 PM

PITTSBURGH – Filip Lindberg spent eight days isolated in a hotel room before he backstopped UMass to its first national championship.

The junior goalie was deemed a close contact to a positive COVID-19 case last week and was isolated from the team as it prepared to leave for Pittsburgh and the Frozen Four. He, Carson Gicewicz, Henry Graham and Jerry Harding didn’t travel for Thursday’s semifinal.

“The day I found out, that was probably the worst day I've had,” Lindberg said. “That was a nightmare.”

Lindberg had to watch the semifinal on TV from a hotel room in Amherst. Matt Murray – his close friend and competitor for time in UMass’ net – stopped 36 shots to send UMass to the national championship game for the second time.

“I was pretty nervous. It was something else, just sitting back and watching the guys play when you want to be there and you want to help the team and you want to be a part of that, and there's literally nothing you can do, just watch,” Lindberg said. “I was really nervous and had to take a walk outside. I couldn't watch. I could, but I just had get some fresh air. But, yeah, like I said, we got the job done.”

UMass announced Lindberg, Gicewicz and Graham cleared Massachusetts COVID protocols and would travel to Pittsburgh shortly after Garrett Wait’s overtime winner against Minnesota Duluth. They each rode in separate cars with drivers Friday. Assistant coach Jared DeMichiel FaceTimed him around 2 p.m. and asked how he was feeling.

“I feel good. I napped for six hours,” Lindberg said.

DeMichiel told Lindberg he’d be starting in the national championship game. The Espoo, Finland, native had been in goal for UMass’ previous 12 games and posted a 9-0-3 record. He also had Frozen Four experience from the Minutemen’s 2019 run to the title game.

“I was ready to play no matter what. I rested a lot in the hotel, stuff like that. So I'm happy I got the chance to play even though the circumstances were kind of weird, but doesn't matter at this point anymore,” Lindberg said. “I was stretching a lot and thinking a lot about hockey. I was prepared. I got to rest for eight days, too, which was nice. I mean, nothing to complain. I was ready to go. And I had the mindset of, if I got the chance to play after this COVID incident, that I would get the job done.”

St. Cloud State didn’t give Lindberg much time to settle in Saturday. Within the game’s first 90 seconds, Huskies freshman Veeti Miettinen lined up a breakway shot and rang the crossbar. He had Lindberg’s glove beat.

They’re from the same town in Finland and played together on their youth team. Lindberg knew Miettinen would fire the shot despite having passing options.

“I knew he was going to take the shot, because if he scored, he would not let me forget that,” Lindberg said. “So, I knew it was a shot coming by him, so, I was kind of taking him and not the other guy. He has a good shot. I'm going to thank the crossbar for that one.”

Lindberg finished with 25 saves and his fourth career NCAA Tournament shutout. Through two national championship game runs encompassing seven games, he’s 6-1 with a .959 save percentage. Lindberg has only given up seven goals in the NCAA Tournament, and three of them came in the 2019 final against Minnesota Duluth.

Later in the first period, St. Cloud State defenseman Nick Perbix crashed into Lindberg driving to the net. Perbix’s hands contacted Lindberg’s head, and the goalie stayed down on the ice for a few Minutes. He eventually got back up and didn’t let anything else near the net.

“To have to miss a semifinal, to not be able to skate most days, come in and get absolutely railroaded a couple minutes into the game, and he hurt his ankle on that play, but he was so good this year because of his mental toughness. That was the problem in the past,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “He was very inconsistent and to me it was because he was mentally... he would get, whatever, anxious. But he dealt with that. And he found a way to fight through it. And, boy, was he good.”

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


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