Frozen Four: UMass hockey’s leading scorer, starting goalie out due to COVID protocols

  • UMass junior Filip Lindberg saved 18 shots for his third NCAA Tournament shutout, as the Minutemen beat Bemidji State 4-0 in the regional finals at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn. THOM KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • Carson Gicewicz scored his first collegiate hat trick against Bemidji State in the regional finals at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn. THOM KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 4/6/2021 10:32:31 AM

COVID-19 protocols dealt the UMass hockey team a body blow Tuesday.

UMass will be without four players for the Frozen Four on Thursday due to COVID-19 protocols, the team announced Tuesday morning. The Minutemen will face defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth at 9 p.m. Thursday at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.

Starting goalie Filip Lindberg, first-line forward Carson Gicewicz, fourth-line forward Jerry Harding and third-string goalie Henry Graham won’t play due to “contact tracing protocols and in accordance with University of Massachusetts policies,” the release said.

“I feel for these players who have sacrificed so much over the last year and committed themselves to getting our team to this point,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said in the release. “They have earned the right to compete for a national championship, and to have this unfortunate situation occur now is hard to comprehend. But nevertheless it’s a result that we have to accept, and we will move forward together and utilize the depth of our roster for Thursday’s game in Pittsburgh.”

UMass last played in the NCAA regionals a week and a half ago in Bridgeport, Conn. Rather than playing the entire tournament at one controlled site like the basketball tournaments, the NCAA followed its traditional format of four separate regionals then had the teams travel home for a week then come to Pittsburgh for the semifinals and finals.

The four players were isolated in Amherst and didn’t travel with the rest of the Minutemen when they left Monday afternoon for Pittsburgh. They could possibly still join the team for the national championship Saturday if UMass advances and they continued to test negative. UMass will undergo another round of testing at 3 p.m. Tuesday. The team is scheduled to practice Wednesday afternoon.

Lindberg has started UMass’ last 12 games and posted a 9-0-3 record. He leads the nation in both save percentage (.946) and goals against average (1.33). But UMass has a more than capable backup in senior Matt Murray. The two netminders alternated games for the first two series of the season – as they have for their entire careers – then Murray played 10 games in a row and won seven straight starts in late December and early January. He’s UMass’ all-time career leader in wins (51) and shutouts (11). Murray hasn’t played since Jan. 18 against Boston University. He’ll be making his NCAA Tournament debut Thursday. Lindberg started all four games in 2019 en route to the national championship game.

In a normal situation with Lindberg out, Graham would be the backup. With the freshman also unavailable, UMass will turn to senior student equipment manager Zac Steigmeyer as an emergency backup. The Ludlow native played at Springfield Cathedral and Pope Francis after the former closed down. Steigmeyer backed up Quinnipiac senior Keith Petruzelli, a finalist for the Mike Richter Award as college hockey’s top goalie, in high school and also played with UMass’ John Leonard at Cathedral. He was already a member of UMass’ Tier 1 traveling personnel, so he is going through the same testing protocols as the team and coaches.

Gicewicz leads UMass and is fourth in the nation with 17 goals. His four postseason tallies are tops in the NCAA tournament. No one left has more than two. He’s scored in both NCAA tournament games and has at least a goal in five of the past eight. The senior grad transfer from St. Lawrence plays on the first line with Oliver Chau and Jake Gaudet. Carvel has called his second line of Bobby Trivigno, Josh Lopina and Garett Wait his best, so they will potentially stay intact and have someone lower down the line sheet move into Gicewicz’s spot. Gicewicz has played every game this season. 

Harding has two goals and four assists this season.

Two teams have been eliminated from the NCAA Tournament due to COVID-19 protocols: Notre Dame was ruled out on its arrival at the regional in Albany, and Michigan’s first-round game against Minnestoa Duluth was canceled hours before the puck dropped.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at Follow him on Twitter

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