For the first time in program history, Massachusetts is a national champion.
The Minutemen took down St. Cloud State 5-0 in the NCAA men's hockey championship on Saturday at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, atoning for their loss to Minnesota-Duluth in the 2019 title game.
St. Cloud State, on the other hand, has to wait at least another year to lift its first trophy. Head coach Brett Larson can still be content after having delivered the most successful season ever for the Huskies.
UMass narrowly escaped another defeat to Minnesota-Duluth in the semifinals. The Bulldogs led 2-1 entering the third period, and that remained the score until Anthony Del Gaizo leveled things up at the 8:25 mark. Garrett Wait's overtime tally sent the Minutemen into the final.
St. Cloud State dispatched of Minnesota State by scoring five goals. The four goals the Huskies surrendered proved to be a harbinger of things to come, however.
Whatever Greg Carvel told his players prior to Saturday's game worked, as Massachusetts jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the opening frame and doubled its advantage in the second period.
Ryan Sullivan and Aaron Bohlinger combined on the breakaway for Bohlinger's opener with 7:26 off the clock. Only 64 seconds in the period remained before Reed Lebster was in the right place at the right time to poke home Cal Kiefiuk's pass.
With UMass playing down a man, Philip Lagunov added some flair when he made it a 3-0 game. The senior forward used some nifty stickwork to elude Nick Perbix and then sneaked the puck between the pads of David Hrenak.
Falling into a three-goal deficit in the national championship is obviously not what you want to happen. Mike McMahon of College Hockey News explained the scale of the task that laid ahead for St. Cloud State:
The Minutemen then got to enjoy a power play of their own after the Huskies were penalized for having too many men on the ice. Matthew Kessel capitalized on the situation as he found himself in a lot of space and fired a slap shot past Hrenak.
With little doubt about the outcome, Bobby Trivigno added a fifth for UMass at the 6:00 mark of the third period.
When Carvel arrived at UMass ahead of the 2016-17 campaign, the Minutemen lost at least 22 games for three straight years. They proceeded to go 5-29-2 in his first year in charge.
It's difficult to overstate the scale of the job he has done since. UMass won its opening-round Hockey East tournament series against Vermont in 2017-18 and reached the Frozen Four the following season.
Following that run, the school extended Carvel's contract through 2024. His deal isn't close to expiring just yet, but he may have already coached his way into a new one because he has clearly laid the groundwork for something special in Amherst.