UMass falls short against Minnesota Duluth in bid for national championship

  • UMass defenseman Mario Ferraro hugs UMass hockey head coach Greg Carvel after the loss to Minnesota Duluth in the NCAA Frozen Four Championship game, Sat. April 13, 2019 at the KeyBank Center, Buffalo, N.Y. FOR THE GAZETTE/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • UMass head coach Greg Carvel left, and players Cale Makar and Kurt Keats, right, speak at a postgame press conference about the loss to Minnesota Duluth, Sat., April 12, 2019 at the KeyBank Center, Buffalo, N.Y. FOR THE GAZETTE/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • UMass head coach Greg Carvel speaks at a postgame press conference about the loss to Minnesota Duluth, Sat., April 12, 2019 at the KeyBank Center, Buffalo, N.Y. FOR THE GAZETTE/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • UMass captain Niko Hildenbrand hugs and is consoled by Minnesota Duluth player Riley Tufte after a shutout loss to the Bulldogs in the NCAA Ice Hockey Championship game, Sat. April 13, 2019 at the KeyBank Center, Buffalo, N.Y. FOR THE GAZETTE/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • UMass defenseman and Hobey Baker Award winner Cale Makar hugs head coach Greg Carvel after losing the NCAA Ice Hockey Championship title to Minnesota Duluth, Sat. April 13, 2019, at the KeyBank Center, Buffalo, N.Y. FOR THE GAZETTE/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • UMass defenseman Cale Makar skates with the puck in the Bulldogs defensive zone during the NCAA Ice Hockey National Championship game against Minnesota Duluth, Sat. April 13, 2019, at the KeyBank Center, Buffalo, N.Y. FOR THE GAZETTE/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • UMass defenseman Cale Makar skates with the puck in the Bulldogs defensive zone during the NCAA Ice Hockey National Championship game against Minnesota Duluth, Sat. April 13, 2019, at the KeyBank Center, Buffalo, N.Y. FOR THE GAZETTE/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • UMass forward Mitchell Chaffee attempts to steal the puck away from Minnesota Duluth player Nick Wolff during the third period of the NCAA National Ice Hockey Championship, Sat., April 13, 2019 at the KeyBank Center, Buffalo, N.Y. FOR THE GAZETTE/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • UMass forward Anthony Del Gaizo, left, flicks the puck up toward Minnesota Duluth's goaltender Hunter Shepard, center, while Minnesota's defenseman Mikey Anderson, attempts to pull his stuck out from under his goalie's glove during the NCAA National Ice Hockey Championship, Sat. April 13, 2019 at the KeyBank Center, Buffalo, N.Y. FOR THE GAZETTE/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • UMass defenseman Jake McLaughlin, skates with the puck during a game against Minnesota Duluth for the NCAA National Ice Hockey Championship title, Sat. April 13, 2019 at the KeyBank Center, Buffalo, N.Y. FOR THE GAZETTE/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • Massachusetts forward Jacob Pritchard (14) and Minnesota-Duluth forward Noah Cates (21) collide during the third period of the NCAA Frozen Four men's college hockey championship game, Saturday, April 13, 2019, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes) Jeffrey T. Barnes

  • Massachusetts players react after losing 3-0 to Minnesota -Duluth following the third period of the NCAA Frozen Four men's college hockey championship game, Saturday, April 13, 2019, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes) Jeffrey T. Barnes

  • Massachusetts' Marc Del Gaizo (2) defends against Minnesota-Duluth' Parker Mackay (39) during the second period of the NCAA Frozen Four men's college hockey championship game, Saturday, April 13, 2019, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes) Jeffrey T. Barnes

  • Minnesota-Duluth forward Parker Mackay (39) celebrates his goal during the first period of the NCAA Frozen Four men's college hockey championship game against Massachusetts, Saturday, April 13, 2019, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes) Jeffrey T. Barnes

  • Minnesota-Duluth forward Parker Mackay (39) puts the puck past Massachusetts goalie Filip Lindberg (35) during the first period of the NCAA Frozen Four men's college hockey championship game Saturday, April 13, 2019, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes) Jeffrey T. Barnes

  • Massachusetts forward Kurt Keats (7) stick checks Minnesota-Duluth forward Billy Exell (16) during the second period of the NCAA Frozen Four men's college hockey championship game, Saturday, April 13, 2019, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes) Jeffrey T. Barnes

  • Massachusetts goalie Filip Lindberg (35) makes a save against Minnesota-Duluth during the second period of the NCAA Frozen Four men's college hockey championship game, Saturday, April 13, 2019, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes) Jeffrey T. Barnes

  • Massachusetts forward John Leonard (9) kicks the puck past Minnesota-Duluth forward Nick Swaney (23) during the first period of the NCAA Frozen Four men's college hockey championship game, Saturday, April 13, 2019, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes) Jeffrey T. Barnes

  • Massachusetts forward Mitchell Chaffee (21) and Minnesota-Duluth defenseman Louie Roehl (6) battle behind the net during the first period of the NCAA Frozen Four men's college hockey championship game, Saturday, April 13, 2019, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes) Jeffrey T. Barnes

  • Minnesota-Duluth forward Parker Mackay (39) celebrates his goal during the first period of the NCAA Frozen Four men's college hockey championship game against Massachusetts, Saturday, April 13, 2019, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes) Jeffrey T. Barnes

  • Massachusetts defenseman Cale Makar (16) looks to shoot on Minnesota-Duluth goalie Hunter Shepard (32) during the first period of the NCAA Frozen Four men's college hockey championship game, Saturday, April 13, 2019, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes) Jeffrey T. Barnes

  • Massachusetts defenseman Mario Ferraro (5) and Minnesota-Duluth defenseman Matt Anderson (3) battle for the puck during the first period of the NCAA Frozen Four men's college hockey championship game, Saturday, April 13, 2019, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes) Jeffrey T. Barnes

Staff Writer
Published: 4/14/2019 1:29:54 AM

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The bright lights of a national championship game might have been just a bit too much for UMass.

The Minutemen proved doubters wrong all season on their way to the Hockey East regular season championship and a spot in the national title game, Saturday night at KeyBank Center. But that was when the youth of this team started to break through the confident exterior UMass has worn all season.

Minnesota Duluth, the reigning champs playing in its third consecutive championship game, sent five shots toward Filip Lindberg in the first 131 seconds. It was a deluge that ultimately resulted in UMass taking a penalty and the Bulldogs capitalizing on the power play less than four minutes into the game. Before the Minutemen could settle into the game, they were already trailing and they couldn’t find a way to recover.

The Bulldogs outskated the Minutemen for 60 minutes and finished off their title defense with a 3-0 win over UMass to secure the repeat. They are the first team since Denver in 2005 to successfully defend their title.

“We were out of sorts,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “Again, hasn’t happened to us many times this year. To me, it was similar to the game against Boston College at the TD Garden. It’s unfortunate. It’s unfortunate. I don’t think that was our best. I don’t mind losing to a good hockey team. Even at our best, I don’t know if we beat Duluth. We’ll go home knowing that we lost to a better team tonight, for sure.”

Minnesota Duluth continued to swarm UMass (31-10-0) after the first goal, but Lindberg held strong to keep the Minutemen in the game. The freshman goalie stopped 13 shots in the first period, including a terrific pad save in front of the goal late in the period with the Bulldogs on the power play. He parried the first nine shots he faced in the second period as well before the Bulldogs (29-11-2) were able to crack him for the second time late in the period.

The Minutemen struggled to relieve the pressure from their defensive zone by being unable to sustain any possession of their own. Whenever UMass was able to clear its own zone it either was dumping the puck deep for a line change or being stifled trying to enter the offensive zone. It resulted in a season-low five shots in the first period for UMass.

“They just out-competed us,” sophomore defenseman Cale Makar said. “I give them a lot of credit. They just closed down on our wingers very well. We just didn’t have an attack for that. We didn’t really adjust as D. Unfortunately that’s what lost us the game.”

There were pockets, especially in the second and third periods, where UMass (31-10-0) was able to steady itself and create some dangerous looks, but it never really troubled Bulldogs goalie Hunter Shepard. All of the best Minutemen chances were pucks that found their way into empty space around the net but never were touched by a UMass stick.

And many of those opportunities were created by the fourth line of Anthony Del Gaizo, Kurt Keats and George Mika. The trio was able to set up the cycle behind the net several times, which created those loose puck around the crease that no one was there to finish. Keats had the best chance with a shot from a tough angle that Shepard steered away with his shoulder.

“We just didn’t really get stretches of momentum,” Carvel said. “I thought actually our fourth line was our best line tonight, created the most offense for us.

“Honestly, our fourth line was our best line,” Carvel added. “It’s hard to say that. I’m proud of the fourth line, that they came and showed up ready to play. But other guys tonight just couldn’t bring it.”

Perhaps most disappointing was how badly Minnesota Duluth won the battle of special teams. The Bulldogs converted on their first power play of the game when Parker Mackay took advantage of UMass over-rotating and found himself alone in front of Lindberg. They fired seven shots over the course of four power-play attempts, although UMass was able to survive the other three penalties.

Meanwhile, the Minutemen’s second-ranked power play was ineffective all night against the aggressive Minnesota Duluth penalty kill unit. UMass didn’t get a shot off on its man advantage in the first period and then put one on Shepard in the final second of the second power play – albeit it was Keats who took the shot. Both third-period power plays also fired a single shot on goal even though UMass was able to set up its top unit in short bursts.

“They pressured us really hard,” Makar said. “We bobbled the puck a little bit, but ultimately we just couldn’t make plays and get the puck off the half wall to kind of recover in the middle of the ice and get it up high.”

Minnesota Duluth’s experience began to shine its brightest in the final six or so minutes of the second period. The Bulldogs withstood the early push from UMass in the middle stanza and then were able to capitalize on a mistake in the defensive zone. The Minutemen lost track of Mikey Anderson, who snuck in from the blue line with about four minutes left in the second to rip a shot over Lindberg’s shoulder to double the lead.

The Bulldogs played a possession game in the third period before sealing the title with a Jackson Cates goal after Makar slid to break up a 2-on-1 break and UMass couldn’t clear the zone.

“We weren’t at the top of our game tonight,” sophomore defenseman Mario Ferraro said. “At the end of the day, it just showed the little bit of immaturity we had tonight. We’re proud of the way we played and Duluth played a good game and deserved to win.”




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