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UMass OT goal thwarts Denver comeback

Denver goalie Filip Larsson had 24 saves in the Pioneers' 4-3 overtime loss to UMass on Thursday, April 11, in the NCAA Frozen Four semifinals at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, N.Y. (Clint Austin / The Rink Live)1 / 2
Denver freshman forward Cole Guttman (19) scored twice late in the third period to force overtime before the Pioneers fell to UMass 4-3 in the NCAA Frozen Four semifinals on Thursday, April 11, at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, N.Y. (Clint Austin / The Rink Live)2 / 2

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Marc Del Gazio scored on a blast from the blue line in overtime to thwart an amazing comeback as the Massachusetts Minutemen beat the Denver Pioneers 4-3 and advanced to the NCAA title game on Thursday evening, April 11, at KeyBank Center.

Trailing 3-1 with less than 10 minutes remaining, the Pioneers got a pair of goals from freshman center Cole Guttman to force the extra session. In overtime the teams raced end to end for 15 minutes before Del Gazio’s slap shot from long range eluded Denver goalie Filip Larsson on the glove side as the Minutemen advanced to face Minnesota Duluth in college hockey’s final game.

Colin Staub got a first-period goal for the Pioneers (24-12-5), who got 24 saves from Larsson in the loss. Making the first Frozen Four appearance in their program’s history, the Minutemen (31-9-0) got a trio of power play goals in the first period and appeared to be in complete control until Guttman’s star turn in the final 10 minutes of regulation.

"We didn't want to get too high or too low. We just wanted to stay confident and composed. We had a really confident group in here," Guttman said after the game in the quiet Pioneers locker room.

UMass got early goals from Bobby Trivigno, Mitchell Chaffee and John Leonard, along with 37 saves from goalie Filip Lindberg.

The special teams trouble was an issue for the Pioneers not just on Thursday, but all season, as their penalty kill and power play often struggled.

"They executed and they made finishing plays on their power play. We didn't. We made one. But I thought our power play gave us life and momentum all night," Denver coach David Carle said. "It's one of the best nights our power play has been in a long time. We generated 16 shots on the power play, so I'm very happy with it. Credit their goaltender for making the stops."

The first-period storm of penalties that would engulf both teams began a little over six minutes into the game, when UMass right winger Niko Hildenbrand was ejected from the game for making head contact with Pioneers forward Tyson McLellan.

With five minutes of man-advantage time, Denver mounted a full-on attack at the UMass net, and ended a mad scramble at the goalmouth when Staub finally shoveled a loose puck past not only Lindberg, but also UMass defenseman Jake McLaughlin, who was prone in the crease. It was the third consecutive game with a goal for Staub.

Before the penalty to Hildenbrand had concluded, the Pioneers took back-to-back penalties of their own, and the Minutemen tied the game on a shot by Trivigno. It was the first goal that Larsson had allowed in the NCAA playoffs, after shutting out Ohio State and AIC to win the West Regional.

Then the real trouble began for Denver. Gazio hesitated with the puck at center ice just long enough for Pioneers forward Ryan Barrow to level Del Gazio, drawing a five-minute penalty and a game misconduct for contact to the head. UMass scored twice just 18 seconds apart on the ensuing extended power play for a 3-1 lead after 20 minutes.

The Pioneers held a 9-7 shots advantage in the second period and got another extended power play, but failed to chip away at the UMass lead. Coming up ice with the puck, in front of the Denver bench, Pioneers defenseman Ian Mitchell was hit hard by UMass top line right winger Mitchell Chaffee. With Chaffee ejected from the game and the Pioneers on another five-minute power play, they tested Lindberg late in the period, but didn’t score.

The Minutemen killed a pair of penalties in the early stages of the third period, but Guttman finally got a second Denver goal via a long shot that made its way through traffic in front of Lindberg, and made it a 3-2 game with more than nine minutes to play. Guttman tied the game by slipping a puck between Lindberg’s knees with less than five minutes remaining in regulation.

"You need the goaltender. You need him to make saves," said Minutemen coach Greg Carvel. "I'll be honest, I thought the two goals in the third period weren't great goals. You've got to make those saves. He made some big saves. He always does. But I'm not going to say he won the game. He did his job. A lot of guys did their jobs."

Denver was without freshman forward Emilio Pettersen, who led the team in assists with 24 for the season. He was injured in the regional win over AIC and could not play.

It was the 17th Frozen Four appearance for Denver.

Game Summary

Denver 1-0-2-0—3

Massachusetts 3-0-0-1—4

First period — 1. DEN, Colin Staub 8 (Kohen Olischefski, Cole Guttman), 8:29, (pp). 2. MAS, Bobby Trivigno 13 (Jacob Pritchard, Marc Del Gazio), 11:41, (pp). 3. MAS, Mitchell Chaffee 18 (Cale Makar, Pritchard), 13:04, (pp). 4. MAS, John Leonard 16 (Mario Ferraro, Jake Gaudet), 13:22, (pp). Penalties — Niko Hildenbrand, MAS (5-head contact, game misconduct), 6:24; Jarid Lukosevicius, DEN (tripping), 10:47; Tyson McLellan, DEN (holding), 11:16; Ryan Barrow, DEN (5-head contact, game misconduct), 12:32.

Second period — No scoring. Penalties -- Michael Davies, DEN (slashing), 11:30; Michell Chaffee, MAS (5-head contact, game misconduct), 16:12.

Third period — 5. DEN, Cole Guttman 13 (Tyler Ward, Jake Durflinger), 10:32. 6. DEN, Guttman 14 (McLellan, Les Lancaster), 16:14. Penalties — Gaudet, MAS (cross checking), 3:42; Brett Boeing, MAS (hooking), 7:53.

Overtime — 7. MAS, Marc Del Gazio 13 (Oliver Chau, Gaudet), 15:18. Penalties — None.

Shots on goal — DEN 11-9-15-5—40; MAS 10-7-4-7—28. Goalies — Filip Larsson, DEN (28 shots-24 saves); Filip Lindberg, MAS (40-37). Power plays — DEN 1-of-5; MAS 3-of-5. Referees — Dan Kovarik, Josh Lupinek. Linesmen — Kyle Domin, Matt Tyree. Att. — 13,051.