AMHERST, Mass. - Goaltender Filip Lindberg backboned a strong team defensive effort and forward Jake Gaudet's first period goal lifted second-seeded Massachusetts to a 1-0 blanking of seventh-seeded UMass Lowell 1-0 in the title game of the 36th annual Hockey East Championship held Saturday night at the Mullins Center.
Lindberg, who allowed just three goals in his team's three-game tournament run, made 16 saves and weathered a strong River Hawks attack in the final period as the Minutemen (16-5-4) captured their first-ever Hockey East title in their second appearance in the final, first since 2004. He made six stops in the third period and his team in front of him blacked several others
Gaudet, the senior captain, gave UMass the goal it needed at 15:32 of the first, banking home his third of the year. His initial shot hit the side of the net and his centering pass of the rebound went off the arm of UML freshman goalie Henry Welsch and slipped into the net. Carson Gicewicz and Oliver Chau picked up assists.
There were only a combined nine shots on goal in the second but both teams had solid scoring chances. The Minutemen went on the power play for the first time in the tournament and Welsch made a great glove save robbing Josh Lopina, the Hockey East co-Rookie of the Year. Defenseman Zac Jones then had another solid opportunity to make it 2-0 but his shot from the right side missed wide. Shortly after, Jon McDonald of the River Hawks saw his left wing drive stopped by Lindberg and then Andre Lee later rattled one off the goal post on UML's first power play.
Lee had another great chance, a shot off a faceoff to start the third before both defenses killed off back-to-back power plays. Jones nearly added an insurance tally having his drive from the blue line through traffic in front hit the left goal post.
Lindberg and the Minutemen defense would shut the door in the third to deny another UML comeback attempt, coming from behind in each of the first three rounds, including a three-goal third period deficit against top-seeded Boston College in the semifinals on Wednesday. With just over seven minutes left, a shot by UML's Josh Candotta found another post and then on the ensuing scramble, Lindberg held his position on a few other goal mouth whacks. It was more of the same in the last two minutes after the River Hawks pulled Welsch for an extra attacker.
The Minutemen had a 22-16 advantage in shots and both teams killed two power play attempts as only four penalties were whistled in the hard-fought match. Welsch made with 21 saves for UMass Lowell (10-9-1) whose bid to become the lowest seed to win the title came to an end.
UMass forward Bobby Trivigno, the tournament's leading scorer with two goals and six points including three points in the semifinals, earned the William Flynn Tournament MVP Award presented by Market Basket. He was joined on the 2021 Steve Nazro All-Tournament Team with teammates Gaudet, Jones and Lindberg, along with defenseman Anthony Baxter and forward Matt Brown of the River Hawks. Brown's four goals led all-tournament scorers.
With the conference title, the Minutemen earn Hockey East's automatic bid to the 2021 NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Championship. UMass will be in its third NCAA tourney and its second straight. It reached the title game in the last tournament in 2019. The selection show will be aired nationally on Sunday, March 21 at 7 p.m. (eastern) on ESPNU. The complete bracket will be available on NCAA.com.