Frozen Four 2021: St. Cloud State, UMass Advance to Men's Championship GameApril 8, 2021
After multiple rounds full of drama in the NCAA men's ice hockey tournament, there was no shortage of excitement heading into the Frozen Four.
None of the four top seeds in the field reached the national semifinals, which provided an opportunity for three clubs to try to win their first championship. The fourth team is used to the surroundings, with Minnesota Duluth seeking its third straight title.
Things still needed to be settled on the ice at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh on Thursday night with the championship game set for Saturday.
Here is what you need to know from the latest action.
Frozen Four Results
Saint Cloud State def. Minnesota State, 5-4
UMass def. Minnesota Duluth, 3-2 (OT)
Saint Cloud State 5, Minnesota State 4
Nolan Walker helped Saint Cloud State continue its dream postseason with a go-ahead goal with 52.3 seconds left.
With the game tied 4-4 in the final minute, Seamus Donohue fired it at the net before Walker deflected it in for the game-winner.
It came at the end of a back-and-forth battle that saw both teams score during a thrilling third period:
Walker put his team one win away from a title.
St. Cloud St. appeared on its way to an easy victory after a hot start that put the Huskie up 3-1 halfway through the game.
The Huskies were expected to have a tough time scoring without the injured Easton Brodzinski (broken leg), the squad's leading goal scorer on the year. Minnesota State goalie Dryden McKay is also one of the best in the country at his position and arguably the top overall player in the Frozen Four.
This didn't seem to make a difference as captain Spencer Meier scored less than four minutes into the game, while Kyler Kupka also found the back of the net in the first period:
Chris Peters @chrismpeters
Good start for St. Cloud State as they get the early lead and have been able to control the puck a bit more. Bit of a nervy start for Minnesota State as they were a little shaky in their own end leading to the penalty and a few turnovers. St. Cloud's speed noticeable early.
Smith tied the game for Minnesota State in the first, but Kupka's goal came just 10 seconds later to regain the lead.
Will Hammer added to his team's lead in the second period, as it was clear generating offense would not be an issue. Of course, Minnesota St. wasn't going to go down without a fight.
The Mavericks fought back with a pair of goals in the second period, with Nathan Smith scoring a power-play goal to tie it:
Dallas Gerads gave Minnesota State its first lead in the third period, but it was short-lived as Joe Molenaar later tied it at 4-4.
It was a thrilling battle throughout, but St. Cloud came through with the clutch play late to win the semifinal.
UMass 3, Minnesota Duluth 2
UMass avenged its loss in the 2019 title game and the team is now one game away from its first-ever title after beating Minnesota Duluth in overtime Thursday.
Just like the first semifinal, a late goal broke the tie after a close battle throughout. This time around it was Garrett Wait, who scored in the first overtime to give the Minutemen the win.
While Minnesota Duluth had been the aggressor earlier in the game, UMass had the better chances in overtime before finally finding the back of the net.
UMass was shorthanded entering the game with four players ruled out due to COVID-19 protocols, per Rich Thompson of the Boston Herald. This absences included starting goalie Filip Lindberg and leading scorer Carson Gicewicz.
It forced backup Matt Murray into the net with everyone else having to step up offensively.
Murray did his part while finishing with 36 saves in the game, although Minnesota Duluth was able to score on rebounds in each of the first two periods:
These finishes helped the Bulldogs take the lead going into the third period after controlling most of the action throughout.
The favorites still weren't able to pull away, giving the Minutemen the opportunity to tie things up with an Anthony Del Gaizo goal in the third:
Both teams had several chances to win the game over the final 10 minutes of regulation, while there were no shortage of chances in overtime either.
It ended up being Wait that earned the win for his team with a goal he will never forget.
Minnesota Duluth was coming off a five-overtime game that resulted in an upset win over No. 1 seed North Dakota. This time around, the squad wasn't able to get the clutch goal late and will fall short of a title for the first time since 2017.