Captain Jake Gaudet’s goal delivers UMass 1st Hockey East championship

  • UMass senior captain Jake Gaudet scored 15 minutes, 32 seconds into the Hockey East Championship game against UMass Lowell on Saturday at the Mullins Center in Amherst. THOM KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass captain Jake Gaudet was the first to hoist the Lamoriello Trophy after the Minutemen won their first Hockey East championship 1-0 over UMass Lowell on Saturday at the Mullins Center. Gaudet scored the game’s only goal 15 minutes, 32 seconds in. THOM KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass seniors, from left, Matt Murray, Jake Gaudet, George Mika and Carson Gicewicz celebrate with th Lamoriello Trophy after the Minutemen won their first Hockey East championship 1-0 over UMass Lowell on Saturday at the Mullins Center. Gaudet scored the game’s only goal 15 minutes, 32 seconds in. THOM KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass senior George Mika raised the Lamoriello Trophy as Oliver Chau and other teammates looked on after the Minutemen won their first Hockey East championship 1-0 over UMass Lowell on Saturday at the Mullins Center. THOM KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 3/20/2021 9:40:02 PM

In an empty Mullins Center, the UMass hockey team’s cheers reverberated to the rafters where a new banner will eventually hang.

Not empty because fans wouldn’t come, like in senior captain Jake Gaudet’s first year when the Minutemen finished last in Hockey East. Empty because they couldn’t due to a global pandemic.

Gaudet and UMass hoisted the Lamoriello Trophy for the first time Saturday night as Hockey East champions after dispatching budding in-state rival UMass Lowell 1-0 in the title game.

“Going through the whole year playing without fans, you reflect on why you play hockey: celebrating with all the boys. It’s pretty pure,” Gaudet said. “It brings you back to minor hockey where obviously there’s no fans in the building. There’s no one I’d rather scream and celebrate with than those guys. There’s no fans and that’s disappointing, but all that matters is the guys on the team.”

The victory guaranteed UMass a place in the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive event.

“We’re gonna go down in history,” UMass junior forward Bobby Trivigno said during his postgame interview on NESN, adding an expletive that he quickly apologized for.

UMass (16-5-4) was appearing in its first Hockey East final since 2004, a triple-overtime loss. Last year’s team was the No. 2 seed before the tournament was canceled by the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In another year, Saturday’s game would have filled Boston’s TD Garden. The third-seeded Minutemen played their third of three single-elimination games at home instead. They owed the No. 7 seed River Hawks for taking out No. 2 Boston University in the quarterfinals and No. 1 Boston College in the semifinals.

UMass Lowell wasn’t a model guest, but the Minutemen didn’t intend to be gracious hosts.

The River Hawks locked the puck in UMass’ defensive zone with a strong forecheck 14 minutes, 33 seconds in, forcing UMass coach Greg Carvel to call his only timeout of the game. The Minutemen’s fourth line needed a break, exhausted after a long shift with UMass Lowell’s top line climbing over the boards.

“When you realize it’s going to be a low-scoring game, you better make sure you don’t put your team in jeopardy,” Carvel said. “It was an easy call for me. You hate to use [the timeout] early in the game, but it felt like whoever scored first was going to have a huge upper hand in that game. I didn’t want to take a chance there.”

The Minutemen cleared the zone, and Gaudet gave UMass that upper hand. Carson Gicewicz fed him a pass approaching the River Hawks’ net, and Gaudet missed the attempt. He tracked down the rebound behind the net and banked a shot in off UMass Lowell goalie Henry Welsch’s arm with 4:28 left in the first period. Oliver Chau had an assist, as well.

“I should have scored before that, I think. The puck came to me, and there was bodies in front,” Gaudet said. “I initially was trying to get it out to Carson or hit something, and luckily it did.”

That left nearly 45 minutes between the Minutemen and history. Their defense didn’t break. Junior goalie Filip Lindberg stopped 16 shots in his third shutout of the season.

“It took a little while for the group to figure out its identity. Special teams all year were in our favor,” Carvel said. “We got good goaltending but we had better play in front of him. It’s one equation that works for us. We’ll continue to ride it.”

UMass earned its first power play of the postseason 2:44 into the second period after a hooking call against UMass Lowell’s Seth Barton. The Minutemen generated four shots, two of which were blocked.

As the penalty expired and shortly after it, River Hawks forward Matt Brown leaked up the left side of the ice one on one against Zac Jones. Jones stayed between him and Lindberg, and Lindberg comfortably saved Brown’s attempt.

The Minutemen’s top-ranked penalty kill was called into service 11 minutes later. Colin Felix was whistled for interference behind UMass’ net. Andre Lee rang the post for the River Hawks, and they put a shot on net, but UMass held its lead.

UMass then put too many men on the ice 2:21 into the third to give UMass Lowell another power play. The Minutemen proved up to the task again, only allowing one shot on net and keeping the puck largely racing up the ice back toward the River Hawks’ end.

The Minutemen had another man advantage with 8:13 left after a Jon McDonald cross check sent him to the box. Jones rang the post after following a fake slap shot with a blast from the blue line but couldn’t increase their lead.

The River Hawks thought they tied it with 7:12 left. Brehdan Engum backhanded a puck in the crease that Lindberg deflected then lost behind him as he transitioned from left to right. He laid on it as a scrum developed and forced a whistle. The referee called no goal, and a review confirmed it.

“I thought (Saturday), we needed a break to break through. That goal review, that was probably the difference for us,” UMass Lowell coach Norm Bazin said. “I thought we would have had a second wind if that would have went our way.”

Instead, they had only a last gasp. UMass Lowell pulled its goalie with 1:49 remaining chasing an equalizer. None came.

When the final horn sounded, Gicewicz was the first one in line to embrace Lindberg. The rest of the team streamed off the bench and up the ice throwing helmets and gloves to join the pile. Carvel and his staff leapt into each other’s arms on the bench then quickly raced over to hug their players.

“This year, I didn’t know if we had it. The kids we brought in the program made us better,” Carvel said. “Our senior class has taken this program from last place to first. They walked off the ice for the last time at Mullins carrying a Hockey East trophy.”

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


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