PITTSBURGH — Massachusetts ended Minnesota Duluth’s quest for a historic three-peat on Thursday in the NCAA Frozen Four semifinals via a 3-2 overtime win.
On Saturday, via a 5-0 victory over St. Cloud State in the final at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, the Minutemen ended the National Collegiate Hockey Conference’s run of consecutive national championships by its member schools at four.
The Huskies, who were seeking their first NCAA men’s hockey championship, were hoping to add to the streak that dated back to North Dakota’s 2016 national championship in Tampa, Florida.
The league went back-to-back in 2017 in Chicago with Denver defeating UMD in a battle of league rivals. The Bulldogs then won back-to-back titles in 2018 in St. Paul, Minnesota, and 2019 in Buffalo, New York, with the 2020 NCAA tournament getting canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The last league to win five-consecutive national championships was the WCHA from 2002-2006, with Minnesota winning back-to-back titles in 2002 and 2003, Denver going back-to-back in 2004 and 2005, and Wisconsin winning in 2006.
The WCHA also won five in a row between 1979-1983 and 1973-1977, as well as 12 consecutive titles between 1955-1966.
“We were just gripping it a little tight and weren't able to quite execute plays when we got the puck early,” said Huskies coach Brett Larson. “We had the jump. We had the work, but we were just gripping a little tight and forcing things.”
Five of the last six NCAA Frozen Fours have featured two NCHC teams. In its short eight-year history, the league has placed more teams than any other in the Frozen Four with 12. It’s the only league to have placed a team in the Frozen Four in each of the last seven tournaments and has gone 8-6 against nonconference foes at the Frozen Four.
The NCHC is very proud of @SCSUHUSKIES_MH for representing our conference in a fifth straight championship game.— Josh Fenton (@Fenton_JC) April 11, 2021
Tonight was not meant to be, but NCHC programs have persevered in the most difficult of seasons, continuing to build on past success. #NCHCHockey #NCHCProud pic.twitter.com/N2HJmgtamI
Overall, the NCHC is 36-18 in the NCAA tournament against teams from the other five leagues in Division I. The NCHC had a winning record against every other league until Saturday when UMass — which is 3-1 vs. NCHC teams in the last two Frozen Fours — evened the record at 11-11.
“It's really hard to get to the top and then even harder to sustain it. So we'll have our work cut out for us,” said UMass coach Greg Carvel. “We had that hunger after losing two years ago, and now the challenge is to maintain it. Everybody will be gunning for us and that's great. I like that challenge.”
Saturday was the first NCAA men’s hockey title in the history of the UMass program, which lost to UMD in Buffalo in that last Frozen Four played in 2019.
UMass’ win Saturday was the 10th NCAA title for Hockey East since the league began in 1984 and first since Providence won in 2015 over Boston University in Boston. The Minutemen are the fifth Hockey East team to win a national championship along with Maine, BU, Boston College and the Friars.
Trivigno redeems himself
Two years ago during the 2019 Frozen Four in Buffalo, UMass junior wing Bobby Trivigno was suspended for the national championship game against UMD after an elbowing penalty went uncalled against Denver.
On Saturday in Pittsburgh, Trivigno was named the Most Outstanding Player at the 2021 NCAA Frozen Four with a goal and two assists, including the helper on the game-winning overtime goal Thursday against UMD in the semifinals.
“It's crazy,” Trivigno said. “Just where I was two years ago to now, as far as emotionally, is a world of a difference. I'm just so grateful I got to play and be part of this amazing team, amazing program, amazing school. I'm just grateful for everything.”
Trivigno was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Zac Jones and Matthew Kessel — both sophomore defensemen — and junior goaltender Filip Lindberg.
St. Cloud State junior center Nolan Walker, who scored the game-winning goal against Minnesota State-Mankato in the semifinals, was also named to the team along with Mavericks sophomore forward Nathan Smith.
The two-day attendance total for the 2021 NCAA Frozen Four at PPG Paints Arena came to 7,623 after a total of 3,660 on Thursday for the two semifinals and 3,963 on Saturday for the national championship.
The NCAA was allowing a maximum of 4,500 fans per day inside the 18,387-seat NHL venue that is home to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The two-day, two-session total was the lowest attendance for a Frozen Four since 1970 at Olympic Arena in Lake Placid, New York, when the total attendance for the two-day, four-session tournament. Three of the four games were sellouts, with just the third-place game not selling out.
Minnesota falls short
The State of Hockey, Minnesota, sent all five of it’s NCAA Division I men’s hockey programs to the 2021 NCAA tournament, with three of the five teams reaching the Frozen Four.
However, the state will not bring home a national championship.
St. Cloud State, Minnesota Duluth, Minnesota State, Minnesota and Bemidji State all won their first-round games and finished with a combined record of 8-5.
Minnesota State ousted Minnesota in the regional final in Loveland, Colorado, and Minnesota State was eliminated by SCSU. UMass took out Bemidji State, UMD and SCSU.
Saturday was the second warmest day ever for an NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey championship at 80 degrees in downtown Pittsburgh. The record was Tampa, Florida, in 2016 when it was 82.9 degrees.
The last time Pittsburgh hosted the Frozen Four in 2013, it was 55 degrees on the day of the national championship.