Goalie Filip Lindberg making most of chance with UMass

  • UMass goalie Filip Lindberg, right, blocks a shot from Lewis Zerter-Gossage, of Harvard, center, during the NCAA Division tournament, Friday, March 29, 2019 at SNHU Arena in Manchester, N.H. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass players Marc Del Gaizo, left, and Filip Lindberg celebrate at the end of their 4-0 win against Harvard in the NCAA Division 1 tournament, Friday, March 29, 2019 at SNHU Arena in Manchester, N.H. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass goalie Filip Lindberg blocks a shot from Lewis Zerter-Gossage, of Harvard, during the NCAA Division 1 tournament, Friday, March 29, 2019 at SNHU Arena in Manchester, N.H. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Massachusetts goaltender Filip Lindberg (35) makes a save on a shot by Notre Dame forward Jack Jenkins (28) during the first period of an NCAA Division I men's ice hockey regional game in Manchester, N.H., Saturday, March 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

  • Massachusetts goaltender Filip Lindberg (35) looks back as a shot by Notre Dame forward Cam Morrison (26) goes wide, as Massachusetts defenseman Marc Del Gaizo (2) keeps tight, during the first period of an NCAA Division I men's ice hockey regional game in Manchester, N.H., Saturday, March 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

  • Massachusetts goaltender Filip Lindberg, left, is congratulated by defenseman Marc Del Gaizo (2) after shutting out Harvard during the third period of an NCAA Division 1 men's ice hockey regional game in Manchester, N.H., Friday, March 29, 2019. UMass defeated Harvard 4-0. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

  • Massachusetts goaltender Filip Lindberg (35) makes a kick save on a shot by Harvard forward Lewis Zerter-Gossage (77) during the third period of an NCAA Division 1 men's ice hockey regional game in Manchester, N.H., Friday, March 29, 2019. UMass defeated Harvard 4-0. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

  • Massachusetts goaltender Filip Lindberg (35) deflects a shot by Harvard forward Frédéric Grégoire, left, during the second period of an NCAA Division 1 men's ice hockey regional game in Manchester, N.H., Friday, March 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

Staff Writer
Published: 4/8/2019 7:41:00 PM

AMHERST — Filip Lindberg wasn’t sure what his next step was going to be when he was driving home to Espoo, Finland.

Lindberg had just competed in his final game for his club team in Turku and was unsure about what his future may hold. He knew he wanted to play in the United States, preferably at the college level, but he hadn’t committed to a future plan as his last season ended in his home country.

On his 93-mile journey home that night, UMass associate head coach Ben Barr called him on FaceTime. With one hand on the wheel and his other holding the phone, the two proceed to have a conversation that gave him some clarity about his future.

“(I would be playing) probably somewhere in the States, that was my goal,” Lindberg said. “I wanted to get out of Finland, I didn’t want to get stuck in Finland. … My goal was to play college hockey after my last season, but I don’t believe (the alternative) matters anymore, I’m here at UMass and that’s important for me. I love being here and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

UMass began recruiting Lindberg out of necessity. The Minutemen had just two goalies on the roster after last season when Ryan Wischow left the team, and Matt Murray did little to inspire confidence after an inconsistent freshman year. When he signed Lindberg to come to Amherst, coach Greg Carvel assumed he would likely become the team’s starting goaltender at some point early in the season.

Instead, Murray won his first 11 games and forced his way to becoming the Minutemen’s starter for most of this season. Meanwhile, Lindberg dealt with a pair of events that kept him away from suiting up for the Minutemen for an extended period. The freshman missed the first four games of January while winning a gold medal for Finland in the IIHF World Junior Championships, then was sidelined for most of February by illness. The combination limited him to just seven starts in the first 32 games of the season.

“I give Fille a lot of credit because he sat on the bench for a lot of games,” Carvel said. “For a kid who’s come overseas and took a chance to come over here, his attitude never wavered. He kept a great attitude and like every kid in that situation, I told him ‘You’ll get your chance, when you get it, don’t drop the ball.’ He got the chance and he hasn’t dropped it.”

His opportunity came as Murray became less reliable than he was at the beginning of the season. Although he continued to pile up the wins, Murray allowed 26 goals over his last 10 appearances, culminating in letting up three goals on 14 shots in the first game of the Hockey East quarterfinals series against New Hampshire. For the first time all season, Carvel pulled his goalie for performance reasons and inserted Lindberg into the game.

Since that moment, Lindberg has posted a 0.62 goals against average and a .968 save percentage while pitching three shutouts and backstopping the Minutemen to the program’s first appearance in the Frozen Four. While he was the backup, Lindberg said he kept focusing on being ready for his chance and tried to keep the morale up on the bench.

“I’m trying to keep the mindset of being ready to jump in if there becomes an opportunity,” Lindberg said. “Be a good guy on the bench, be a good teammate, keep the mindset sharp and try to create a good atmosphere on the bench.”

Lindberg’s humility is a reason why Carvel said he never doubts the freshman is ready for any situation he can throw at him. During this postseason run, Carvel has described his freshman netminder as “consistent” every time he is asked about him and expressed his appreciation for the positive attitude Lindberg has had all season long. They were the exact traits Carvel said he heard about Lindberg during the recruiting process, and what Lindberg portrays during his media appearances.

In his calm, confident manner, Lindberg said he approaches every day the same way and his competitive streak is at the same level no matter the competition.

“I believe I’m a hard worker,” Lindberg said. “I’m doing my best out there every single day at practice. It doesn’t matter if it’s Monday or Friday, I’m just doing my best every single day. It’s nothing special, I just love playing hockey and I don’t like letting in goals, even in practice.”

As Lindberg was quick to point out after both of UMass’ wins at the Northeast Regional two weeks ago in Manchester, New Hampshire, he has received a lot of help from his teammates. The Minutemen only allowed 30 shots on net during the regional while not allowing a goal, a credit to both Lindberg and the incredible team defense UMass was playing in front of him. At their best, the Minutemen are limiting the opponent’s shots by controlling possession of the puck for long stretches and making sure their goalie doesn’t need to stand on his head.

When UMass faces Denver at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Lindberg will be riding a wave of confidence from pitching three shutouts in his last four starts. But that won’t alter his preparation for Buffalo, New York, and neither will the importance of the game.

“I just have to keep on putting the work in every single day and get ready for the next game,” Lindberg said. “Nothing changes.”




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