Apr. 9—It's been almost seven decades since college hockey has had a national championship "three-peat." Fans of the sport who want to see another are going to have to Wait.
Garrett Wait scored 14 1/2 minutes into overtime to earn Massachusetts a berth in a second consecutive Frozen Four title game. The Minutemen ended Minnesota Duluth's hopes for a third straight championship with a 3-2 win in the nightcap of two NCAA semifinals played Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena.
"It was pretty cool," Wait said. "Something that everyone dreams about.
"But now we have another game to focus on, so you can't get too high."
UMass will face St. Cloud State for the championship at 7 p.m. Saturday, also at PPG Paints Arena. St. Cloud State was a 5-4 winner against Minnesota State in the first semifinal Thursday.
After being outshot 36-15 in regulation, UMass dominated the overtime period (13-2 shot advantage), buoyed in part by 31 seconds of power-play time that led to some dazzling scoring chances. The Minutemen rode that momentum over the next several minutes of action, too, before Wait sent home the socially distanced, reduced-capacity crowd after midnight.
"The guys just executed our game plan to perfection (in overtime)," said goalie Matt Murray, who was sharp (36 saves) in playing his first game since Jan. 18. "They came out ready to go and worked so hard. It was definitely noticeable that they were ready to go in that overtime."
Bobby Trivigno earned assists on both Anthony Del Grazio's third-period tying goal and the winner for UMass. Trivigno got the primary assist on the overtime goal, working with the puck behind the net before darting to the side of the crease to the left of goalie Zach Stejska. Trovigno slid the puck across the blue paint to a waiting Wait, who was all alone on the opposite side.
Wait shoveled the puck into the net.
"Most of the credit goes to Bobby," Minutemen coach Greg Carvel said. "That was what we were trying to do (in overtime) — wear them down, use our feet, create some chances and have some presence on the back post — and they executed. It was well done."
Not only was UMass facing a two-time defending national champion, the Minutemen were without four players — 17-goal scorer Carson Gicewicz, starting goalie Filip Lindberg, third-string goalie Henry Graham and depth forward Jerry Harding — because of what the university termed "covid-19 contract tracing protocols."
But the undermanned Minutemen (19-5-4) largely played undeterred, grabbing the lead with a Zac Jones goal on the power play 15 1/2 minutes into the game. After Minnesota Duluth scored the next two, Del Grazio tied it with 11:35 left by slamming home a rebound of a Josh Lopina shot into an open net.
UMass then spent overtime beating UMD to pucks and dominating puck possession and zone time.
"They had us kind of on the ropes there at the end," Bulldogs junior forward Tanner Laderoute said. "Gotta give it to them."
Laderoute and Cole Koepke scored for the Bulldogs (15-11-2), who were attempting to join Michigan teams of 1951-53 as the only ones in college hockey history to win three consecutive Frozen Four titles.
Minnesota Duluth was trying to play in a fourth consecutive national championship game (the 2020 Frozen Four was canceled), having lost to Denver in the 2017 championship before beating Notre Dame in 2018 and UMass in 2019.
"To get back here, it's not an easy thing to do," UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. "And to be able to do it four years in a row, basically it still leaves a bitter taste losing the game. But certainly proud of our group."
After the game, UMass announced that Gicewicz, Lindberg and Graham will return to the team Friday and — provided they pass covid tests — will be cleared to play in the title game Saturday.
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .