PITTSBURGH — Garrett Wait’s back-door goal at 14:30 of overtime gave Massachusetts a 3-2 victory over Minnesota Duluth in the second NCAA semifinal early Friday.
Massachusetts will face St. Cloud State, a 5-4 winner on Thursday in the opening semifinal, in Saturday’s championship game.
The game-winner came after forcing a turnover near the Minnesota Duluth blue line and then cycling the puck around until Bobby Trivigno slid a perfect pass cross-crease that Wait buried past Zach Stejskal into the open net.
The Minutemen forced overtime on Anthony Del Gaizo’s goal with 11:35 remaining in regulation Minnesota Duluth carried a 2-1 lead in the final frame after Cole Koepke’s goal at 10:59 of the second had given Minnesota Duluth at 2-1 lead.
But despite struggling to generate much offense early in the final frame, UMass did enough to create some havoc in front of Stejskal. Josh Lopina and Trvigno both had whacks at the puck, the latter creating a rebound to Stejskal’s left that Del Gaizo buried.
Koepke’s go-ahead goal came on a scramble in front of the UMass net. Goaltender Matt Murray lost his goal stick as Koepke first attempted to shoot. That shot was blocked by the UMass defense but Koepke’s second attempt went high blocker side for the 2-1 lead.
Seconds later, after a Minnesota Duluth turnover, UMass looked to have the equalizer as Reed Lebster seemingly had a wide-open net. That was until Stejskal flashed his right pad to rob Lebster.
After a stalemate early between these two defense-first clubs, UMass opened the scoring in the first on the power play when Minnesota Duluth’s Tanner Laderoute was whistled for holding at 14:57.
It didn’t take long for the Minutemen to score as offensively-talented defenseman Zac Jones scored his ninth goal of the season from the left point as UMass captain Jake Gaudet set a great screen in front of Stejskal.
Laderoute atoned for the penalty just minutes later when he outmuscled UMass defenseman Aaron Bohlinger for a loose puck in the crease, tucking it past Murray.
Through regulation, Minnesota Duluth held a lopsided 36-15 edge in shots on goal. But in the extra session, the Minutement seemed to find an extra gear, outshooting Minnesota Duluth, 13-2, mostly by creating multiple turnovers like the one that led to the winning goal.