WORCESTER — The thing about overtime hockey is that a goal can silence a crowd like nothing else.
And when Minnesota’s Ben Meyers scored 8 minutes, 31 seconds into overtime, it was like the plug was pulled on all the noise generated by the majority of the 6,002 fans inside the DCU Center.
Meyers’ overtime goal gave Minnesota a 4-3 win over Massachusetts Friday night in the second game of an NCAA Division I hockey doubleheader.
“It’s something I haven’t really felt in a long time,” UMass captain Bobby Trivigno said, searching for words in response to a question about the emotions he was feeling.
“Obviously sadness, and I don’t know,” he said. “It’s terrible. I don’t know how to explain it at all.”
The reigning national champion Minutemen led 2-1 after the first period and went up 3-1 when Reed Lebster scored his second goal of the game, just 1:24 into the second period.
But Minnesota’s Tristan Broz made it a one-goal game late in the second period and a power-play goal by Matthew Knies at 13:17 of the third period tied the game.
The game winner was scored by Minnesota’s Hobey Baker Award finalist, when a quick-release shot beat UMass goalie Matt Murray over his blocker and into the upper corner. It set of a celebration on the ice, and it was virtually silent inside the DCU center because the majority of fans were in UMass colors.
“If you would ask me just how our team played and if I would be happy with it, 100 percent. I thought we played a really good hockey game,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said, “and played well enough to deserve to find a way to win.”
“Regardless of the situation, you have to be the best captain you can be,” said Trivigno. “Obviously, everyone was really upset after the game. We stay together. I was waiting for everyone to hop over the boards and line up as a unit. I’ve absolutely loved leading these guys, and I’ve had a lot of help from the senior class and older guys.
“I love this group, for sure.”
Meyers was the game’s No. 1 star. UMass’ Lebster was the No. 2 star, while Knies was the No. 3 star selected.
Minnesota will play Western Michigan here on Sunday at 4 p.m., for the right to play in the Frozen Four next month at TD Garden in Boston. Western Michigan got a goal from Luke Grainger 1:33 into overtime to beat Northeastern 2-1 in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader.
“This program never quits, regardless of the circumstances,” UMass’ Anthony Del Gaizo said in the post-game press conference. “I thought we were ready to start the overtime and I thought we played well. They got a good chance and they buried it.”
UMass opened the overtime period with a save by Minnesota goalie Justen Close on a shot by Trivigno just 20 seconds in. Close covered the puck before a Minuteman could get to the rebound. Shortly after that, the Gophers’ Sammy Walker got behind the UMass defense, but Murray made a blocker save.
At the 5:37 mark, Trivigno gave the Minutemen another opportunity to win in OT, making a nifty move in the slot to get around a Minnesota defender. The wrist shot was stopped by Close. Three minutes later, the Golden Gophers were celebrating.
The play started behind the net when Minnesota’s Aaron Huglen controlled a loose puck. Meyers got a step on UMass defenseman Aaron Bohlinger and snapped a shot into the upper corner to win the game.
“[Huglen] is a really smart player and he played great all game,” Meyers said of the winger, who moved from centering a line to replacing Mason Nevers on the right. “Obviously, to set up that [goal] was a great play by him.”
Minnesota coach Bob Motzko was breathing a sigh of relief when he and his players walked into the media room.
“What a well-coached hockey team that is and they play with great grit and determination and structure,” Motzko said of the Minutemen. “It took us the first 10 minutes. We got caught when they pulled their goalie and on the power play. Take that minute away, and I thought they grew in the game.”
That minute gave UMass fans a great deal of optimism.
Minnesota’s Ryan Johnson was about to go off for cross checking when the Minutemen replaced Murray with an extra attacker. With the extra skater, Cal Kiefiuk fed Lebster in the slot, and his shot beat Close to make it 1-0. After a lengthy review for a UMass player possibly being inside the blue paint, it was ruled a good goal.
Johnson still had to serve his minor, and 54 seconds into it former Minnesota player Garrett Wait made it 2-0. Ryan Ufko’s shot from the top of the slot was stopped by Close, but the goalie couldn’t control the rebound. The puck bounced out and deflected off of Wait’s skate and went into the net. The officials checked to see if Wait had kicked the puck in. He didn’t, and UMass had a 2-0 lead.
Johnson got credit for a goal at 18:02 when Meyers’ shot was stopped by Murray, who did not control the rebound. The puck bounced off the shinpad of a UMass defender and it was 2-1.
Webster’s second goal, at 1:24 of the second period, gave UMass a 3-1 lead and the UMass fans were dreaming about Sunday. Minnesota shattered those dreams when, with 2:51 left in the second period, Tristan Broz made it 3-2.
UMass was hanging on until Knies’ game-tying goal at 13:17 of the third period. That set the stage for overtime and the ultimate disappointment for UMass nation.
“We laid it all out there all four years, and we can look ourselves in the mirror and know we gave it our all, every minute, for four years,” said Del Gaizo. “Coaches hold us accountable 365 days a year and we take pride in that. That’s why we had the success we had and why this team will continue this success.”
Western Michigan 2, Northeastern 1 (OT)Six times Western Michigan has made the trip from Kalamazoo to the NCAA Hockey Tournament. Six times, the Broncos were done after one game.
“Obviously it’s huge for our program. We are very excited, but we’re not done yet,” Grainger said. “We’re trying to make some more history here and give our program a good look and it is a really good program.”
It did not take Western Michigan very long in overtime to get the job done.
Grainger came in on the forecheck and batted down a puck as the Northeastern D was trying to clear. He quickly got the puck on his stick and, while Northeastern goalie Devon Levi was trying to get back into position, Grainger put the puck into the net. Levi had knocked it out quickly and Grainger tried to score again, firing the puck into Levi’s backside.
When play stopped, the goal was reviewed and ruled a good score. That ended the game and the Huskies’ season.
Northeastern’s Aidan McDonough scored his 25th goal l with 3:20 left to go in the third period, tying the score. Up until that point, Western Michigan goalie Brandon Bussi had stopped every shot he had faced.
On the goal, McDonough came down the right wing and cut toward the slot. A second-effort shot tucked the puck into the net, and the game was tied.
Less than one minute later, Western Michigan’s Cole Gallant almost tied the game. Gallant, who scored the other Bronco goal, got behind the Northeastern defense and fired a rocket toward the right-wing post. Levi, who had 34 saves and was stellar all day, did the splits and got his pad on the puck, helping send the game into overtime.