UMass hockey’s Filip Lindberg excelling in unpredictable season

  • UMass coach Greg Carvel, right, congratulates goaltender Filip Lindberg on shutting out UNH, March 16, 2019 at the Mullins Center. UMass shuts out UNH in the Hockey East quarterfinals and clinches a position at the TD Garden for semi-finals.

Staff Writer
Published: 3/21/2019 9:18:31 PM

AMHERST — Once New Hampshire went up 2-0 last Friday, Greg Carvel went to the end of the bench and told Filip Lindberg to get ready.

The Wildcats went up 3-0 almost 10 minutes later, and Carvel replaced Matt Murray with Lindberg. The freshman proceeded to save 13 of the 14 shots he faced to backstop the Minutemen to a come-from-behind victory. He then stuffed all 18 shots he faced the following night for UMass’ first shutout win in the Hockey East Tournament.

Lindberg played 112:34 of hockey last weekend and allowed just one goal, as the top-seeded Minutemen swept New Hampshire to advanced to Friday’s semifinals against seventh-seeded Boston College. Carvel said he had confidence in making the move because the goalie is consistent and fairly unflappable, something the freshman has proven several times before when he’s been thrown into difficult situations.

“When you get a chance to play you have to play well, show the team that you can take the spot and kind of move forward from that,” Lindberg told The Massachusetts Daily Collegian on Tuesday.

Lindberg has had a wild first year of college hockey that has included winning a gold medal and missing three weeks with an undisclosed illness.

The freshman split games with Murray the first three weekends of the season, but then played just twice in the final six weeks of the fall semester. He then won the gold medal at the World Juniors with Finland, keeping him away from UMass when it returned from winter break in January. Once he rejoined the team, he played just two full games before he missed most of February with his illness.

“He’s had a season where it’s been very unpredictable when he gets to play,” Carvel said. “He’s learned from that, he’s grown from it, he accepted it, which a lot of kids don’t. Never once all year did he pout or did his attitude ever change. Every kid on this team, we always say ‘you’ll get your chance, it’ll come. Just be patient.’ It presented itself and that’s why I’m very comfortable with dropping him into a game and expecting him to perform to his usual standards.”

Carvel and his staff knew very little about Lindberg as a goalie when they recruited him to Amherst last spring. The coaches knew they needed a goalie to compete with Murray and Brad Arvanitis and it was hard to find a quality goalie late in the recruiting process. They turned to their contacts overseas and took Lindberg based on suggestions from those people.

It has proven to be a wise choice with Lindberg posting an 8-2-0 record, 1.63 goals against average and .932 save percentage in 12 appearances for the Minutemen. However, Carvel said he isn’t surprised by that success because of Lindberg’s background.

“We didn’t know him real well as a goalie, we went more on recommendations,” Carvel said. “But when a kid wins the award in his entire junior league for being the best student-athlete in the league, those kids have a lot of consistency in their life. They’re adaptable and flexible, so it’s not shocking.”

Lindberg’s success against New Hampshire in the quarterfinals has created a goalie crisis of sorts for the first time all season. Murray has been the consistent rock for the Minutemen in goal all season with a program-record 20 wins and a respectable 2.12 GAA and .919 save percentage. Yet he was shaky in his last two appearances of the season while Lindberg stood tall against the Wildcats.

Carvel said Tuesday he didn’t know who would start at 7:30 p.m. when UMass (28-8-0) faces Boston College (13-21-3) in the Minutemen’s first Hockey East semifinal in 12 years. Even if he did, he had reasons to remain mum on the topic.

“You guys will know Friday at about 7 p.m.,” Carvel said with a smile. “I’m on strict orders from my goalie coach to say nothing.”

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