Garrett Wait’s OT goal dethrones Minnesota Duluth, sends UMass hockey back to national championship game

  • Massachusetts players gather around Zac Jones (24) after he scored against Minnesota Duluth during the first period of an NCAA men's Frozen Four hockey semifinal in Pittsburgh, Thursday, April 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic) Keith Srakocic

  • Massachusetts' Bobby Trivigno (8) sends the puck past Minnesota Duluth goaltender Zach Stejskal (35), before Garrett Wait, not seen, knocked it in for an overtime goal in an NCAA men's Frozen Four hockey semifinal in Pittsburgh, early Friday, April 9, 2021. Massachusetts won 3-2 and will face St. Cloud State in the championship game Saturday. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic) Keith Srakocic

  • Massachusetts' Garrett Wait (12) celebrates after scoring against Minnesota Duluth during overtime in an NCAA men's Frozen Four hockey semifinal in Pittsburgh, early Friday, April 9, 2021. Massachusetts won 3-2 and will face St. Cloud State in the championship game Saturday. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic) Keith Srakocic

  • Massachusetts' Garrett Wait (12) celebrates with Josh Lopina (10) and Ty Farmer (3) after scoring in overtime against Minnesota Duluth in an NCAA men's Frozen Four hockey semifinal in Pittsburgh, early Friday, April 9, 2021. Massachusetts won 3-2 and will face St. Cloud State in the championship game Saturday. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic) Keith Srakocic

Staff Writer
Published: 4/9/2021 12:29:56 AM

PITTSBURGH – Wait for it.

UMass senior Garrett Wait – the Minutemen’s only Minnesota native in a Frozen Four with three teams from the Land of 10,000 Lakes – sent UMass back to the national championship game with an overtime winner Thursday at PPG Paints Arena.

“It’s something everyone dreams about,” Wait said.

Bobby Trivigno worked the puck around the back of the net then found Wait on the other side of the goal for a tap in.

“Most of the credit goes to Bobby,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “That was what we were trying to do, wear them down. Use our feet. They just executed it. Well done.”

The Minutemen prevailed 3-2 against Minnesota Duluth and will face St. Cloud State for the national championship at 7 p.m. Saturday.

UMass dominated the overtime period with a crushing forecheck. The Minutemen lived in Minnesota Duluth’s zone and peppered Bulldogs goalie Zach Stejskal. They outshot the Bulldogs 13-2 after regulation.

“I think Duluth ran out of gas because they didn’t roll four lines. But I think we took it up a notch,” Carvel said. “The thing about this team is they know what makes them good. When they smelled blood in the water, I thought they took it up a notch.”

The Bulldogs’ best chance came on a breakaway by Tanner Laderoute, but UMass chased him down. The Minnesota Duluth fans in the building wanted a penalty and booed voraciously.

“I mean, that's hockey. I think I had a step on him,” Laderoute said. “He maybe tangled me up a bit, but it's overtime at the Frozen Four. You can't be asking for calls at that time.”

UMass didn’t have to kill many penalties, but it snuffed out the one man-up advantage it gave the Bulldogs.

The Minutemen weren’t whistled for a penalty all game, then Zac Jones was called for a cross check with 1:19 remaining, leaving UMass without one of its best defenders and top penalty killers with the season hanging in the balance.

Minnesota Duluth generated a golden scoring chance, but Matt Murray kicked the puck just hard enough to send it wide to his left. It was one of 36 saves Murray made in his NCAA Tournament debut, the most since his freshman season. Murray was playing for the first time since Jan. 18 since starting goalie Filip Lindberg was out due to COVID-19 protocols.

“It's a great feeling. Obviously playing hockey is the best thing to do in the world. And it's great to have such an amazing group of guys to share that kind of feeling with,” Murray said. “And like I said earlier, they really did their part, too. It was a great team game. And, yeah, it was a great experience to be back on the ice.”

Lindberg, Carson Gicewicz, Jerry Harding and Henry Graham didn’t travel to Pittsburgh because they were deemed close contacts to a COVID-19 positive. UMass announced Lindberg, Gicewicz and Graham have cleared protocols, will rejoin the team Friday and be eligible to play Saturday.

“I'm just happy to get the band back together,” Murray said. “I think it's going to be nothing but hard work and smiles when everyone comes back.”

After Murray saved UMass’ season with that kick save, Minnesota Duluth’s Kobe Roth was called for his own cross check with 46.6 seconds remaining to even the skaters at four apiece and send UMass to overtime for its second consecutive national semifinal. The Minutemen beat Denver 4-3 in extra time in 2019.

Anthony Del Gaizo ensured the Mintuemen got to the extra frame in the third period. The junior replaced Gicewicz on the first line to start the game. Del Gaizo worked around the back of the net and poked the puck in short side after attempts by Trivigno and Josh Lopina were turned aside. That made it 2-2 with 11:32 left.

“That's what we were hoping for from him. And that was the biggest, probably the biggest goal of the year for us – even bigger than the overtime goal because it felt the overtime goal was an eventuality,” Carvel said. “But that goal in the third period, we needed that. It gave us a huge, huge bump and we never turned back from there.”

Cole Koepke gave Minnesota Duluth a 2-1 lead by heeding every coach’s advice: he took the puck to the net and followed his shot. After wheeling around the back of the net, Matt Murray saved his original attempt. The puck popped right back out to Kopeke, who found a hole and the back of the net. Noha Cates and Nick Swaney assisted on the play.

UMass nearly capitalized immediately after on a Minnesota Duluth turnover, but Stejskal was able to stop Reed Lebster’s point-blank one-timer.

“Duluth is the best team we've played this year. They play a really heavy style that we’re not used to playing against,” Carvel said. “For two periods, we struggled with it. I don't know if frustration is the right word, but what we usually do just wasn't working. And so after the second period I really urged the players to realize that it's going to take more.”

Two UMass players were pulled to the ice early in the first period by Minnesota Duluth’s physical play, but the Bulldogs were not whistled for a penalty. Then 14:57 into the game, Laderoute hooked Trivigno to send the Minutemen to the power play.

It didn’t take them long to capitalize on it. Oliver Chau cycled the puck out to Matthew Kessel at the blue line, then he sent it across the ice to his defensive partner. Jones, a New York Rangers prospect, picked out the top right corner of the net around a Jake Gaudet screen 36 seconds into the man advantage.

That put the Minutemen ahead 1-0 with 4:27 remaining in the first period. The lead lasted just 2:17. Laderoute atoned for his earlier error by poking in the puck when it was sitting in the crease after Quinn Olson slipped it behind Murray after wheeling around from the back of the net. Connor Kelley also picked up an assist on the play.

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