PITTSBURGH — Minnesota Duluth’s quest for a third consecutive NCAA championship and fourth in program history came to an end Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh via a 3-2 overtime loss to Massachusetts in the Frozen Four semifinals.
The Minutemen, who lost the the Bulldogs two years ago in the national championship game in Buffalo, took advantage of a UMD turnover and got the puck into the crease, where former Minnesota Golden Gopher Garrett Wait — the lone Minnesotan on the team and a University of Minnesota transfer hailing from Edina — was there to put the puck in the back of the net.
UMass will take on St. Cloud State for the national championship at 6 p.m. Saturday in Pittsburgh. Both schools are chasing their first national championship.
After getting outshot 16-6 in the second period and allowing UMD to take a 2-1 lead, Minutemen junior wing Anthony Del Gaizo tied the game at 2-2 with 11:35 to play in the third period by crashing the UMD net. It was only Del Gaizo’s second goal of the season.
The Bulldogs and Minutemen went into the first intermission tied 1-1 after UMD junior wing Tanner Laderoute tied the game a mere 2 minutes and 17 seconds after UMass took a 1-0 lead.
Laderoute, scoring only his third goal of the season, was able to muscle his way to the top of the crease, where he was able to knock in a rebound that came off the shot of sophomore wing Quinn Olson.
Junior wing Cole Koepke, the Hermantown native, put UMD ahead 2-1 a tick past the 11-minute mark of the second period by driving the net, grabbing his own rebound and firing a bullet into the back of the net that UMass senior goaltender Matt Murray — nor any goalie for that matter — had a chance to stop.
UMass took a 1-0 lead via a power play goal 15:33 into the game when sophomore defenseman Zac Jones used a screen to beat Bulldogs freshman goaltender Zach Stejskal cleanly via a shot from the point.
The UMass 1-0 lead marked the first time in 332 minutes and 32 seconds that UMD trailed in an NCAA tournament game going back to a 2019 NCAA Midwest Regional semifinal against Bowling Green in Allentown, Pa. It was also the first time UMD trailed in a Frozen Four since the 2017 national championship game vs. Denver in Chicago.
Both UMass and UMD were missing players Thursday night due to COVID-19 protocols.
The Minutemen were without four players, including leading goal scorer and senior wing Carson Gicewicz and two of their three goalies — starter Filip Lindberg and third-stringer Henry Graham. UMass suited up senior student equipment manager Zac Steigmeyer to backup Murray.
The Bulldogs were without sophomore goaltender Ryan Fanti due to COVID-19 protocols. Like the four UMass players, he also did not make the trip to Pittsburgh for the Frozen Four. Redshirt junior Ben Patt — suiting up for his third Frozen Four as a Bulldog — backed up Stejskal.
Thursday was the Bulldogs' second overtime game in two 2021 NCAA tournament games. UMD needed five overtimes to get by North Dakota 3-2 in the regional final 12 days prior in Fargo.
UMass also has some familiarity with overtime in the NCAA tournament. The Minutemen needed OTs two years ago in the semifinals of the Frozen Four in Buffalo to get by Denver and set up a national championship showdown with UMD.
After COVID-19 canceled last year’s NCAA tournament, UMD came to this year’s Frozen Four still the reigning two-time national champions and hopeful about becoming only the second school ever to win three consecutive NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey championships, joining the 1951-1953 Michigan Wolverines.
Of the previous seven teams to go after a three-peat, only Michigan has come as close as UMD has, having done so in 1952-53. The Wolverines, who won six of the first nine NCAA men’s ice hockey championships, almost three-peated again between 1955 and 1957, but lost to Colorado College in the ‘57 NCAA championship game.
The 2017-2021 Bulldogs are the 11th program to ever reach four straight Frozen Fours and first since North Dakota did so between 2005-08.
Already one of just five teams to have made three consecutive NCAA title games along with Boston College (2006-08), Minnesota (1974-76) and Michigan, twice (1951-53 and 55-7), the Bulldogs were trying to be the first school to appear in four straight national championship games.
Minnesota Duluth 1-1-0-0—2
5. Mass, Garrett Wait 9 (Trivigno, Lopina), 14:30
Saves — Zach Stejskal, UMD, 4-6-3-12—25; Matt Murray, Mass, 9-15-10-2—36.
Power plays — UMD 0-1; Mass 1-1. Penalties — UMD 2-4; Mass 1-2.