PITTSBURGH – In the past three NCAA tournaments, Minnesota Duluth has thrived in one-goal games, winning six of them while compiling a 9-0 record and winning a pair of national championships. Thursday, however, not extending a one-goal lead was like playing with fire for the Bulldogs.
Garrett Wait, a former Gopher from Edina, scored 14:30 into overtime, giving Massachusetts a 3-2 victory over Minnesota Duluth in the second NCAA Frozen Four semifinal at PPG Paints Arena. In the process, the Minutemen overcame the Bulldogs' one-goal, third-period lead and prevented UMD from playing for its third consecutive national championship. Minnesota Duluth's nine-game overtime win streak in NCAA tournament play, dating to 1985, also ended.
Instead of the Frozen Four finishing with an all-Minnesota final, UMass will play St. Cloud State, a 5-4 semifinal winner over Minnesota State Mankato, in the championship game on Saturday night. Thursday's results guarantee there will be a first-time national champion.
Wait scored on a rebound of Bobby Trivigno's shot after a turnover by the Bulldogs in their end. Massachusetts controlled the overtime period, outshooting UMD 13-2.
Cole Koepke and Tanner Laderoute scored for Minnesota Duluth (15-11-2), which was trying to become the first team to advance to four consecutive national championship games. Zach Stejskal made 25 saves.
Anthony Del Gaizo scored in the third period for UMass (19-5-4) to tie it 2-2, and Zac Jones had a first-period goal. Matt Murray made 36 saves. Massachusetts was playing without leading goal-scorer Carson Gicewicz and usual starting goalie Filip Lindberg.
After a mostly-defensive first 14 minutes of the game, Massachusetts got the game's first power play when Laderoute was called for tripping. Jones fired a shot from the point past Stejskal at 15:33 with the man advantage for a 1-0 lead.
The Bulldogs, however, would answer quickly. Quinn Olson circled around the UMass net and took a shot. Laderoute collected the rebound and deposited the puck in the past Murray to tie it 1-1 at 17:50.
Minnesota Duluth had a scoring chance early in the second period when Swaney fired on Murray on a two-on-one rush, but the UMass goalie made the save. Another Swaney shot on a rush gave Murray some trouble at 6:32, but he found the puck and teammates pushed Swaney, hunting for a rebound, away from the goalie.
The Bulldogs began dictating play from the 7- to 10-minute mark, but the Minutemen responded with a couple of cross-crease passes that didn't connect.
Koepke, though, did connect and give UMD a 2-1 lead at 10:59 of the second. After a rush into the UMass zone, Koepke circled around the net, came out front took a shot. Murray made the save, but Koepke collected the rebound and fired it past the goalie.
The Minutemen nearly tied it, but Stejskal made two sprawling saves on Philip Lagunov and Cal Kiefiuk seven seconds apart.
Staked to the one-goal lead, UMD was comfortable keeping the puck away from the Minutemen or making them go 180 feet through a pack of Bulldogs mount any offense. Minnesota Duluth held UMass to one shot on goal in the first eight minutes of the third.
However, the Minutemen's second shot of the period tied the score 2-2 at 8:25, when Del Gaizo scored on a rebound after Stejskal made the initial save.
The Bulldogs got a power play with 1:19 left in the third when Matthew Kessel was called for cross-checking, but UMD's Kobe Roth went to the box on the same infraction with 47 seconds to play.
In overtime, the Bulldogs killed off the remainder of the Roth penalty. Massachusetts had the first three shots on goal in the extra session and had sustained time in the UMD zone. The exhausted Bulldogs badly needed rest, and Stejskal froze the puck at 8:07.
Looking much more energetic, the Minutemen controlled the first 10 minutes of the extra session. Murray made two saves on Blake Biondi at 9:53 and 9:57, UMD's best chances to that point. Through 13:30 of overtime, UMass was outshooting UMD 12-2.