Dazzling Lagunov short-handed goal solidifies UMass’ lead en route to national championship

UMass’ Philip Lagunov scores a short-handed goal for a 3-0 lead against St. Cloud State on Saturday (photo: Jim Rosvold).

PITTSBURGH — Goals have not been easy to come by for Philip Lagunov in his senior season at UMass.

But a short-handed dangle and finish Saturday in the second period of the NCAA championship game gave him a highlight moment and a big contribution to the Minutemen’s first national title.

Lagunov’s goal five minutes into the second period was a backbreaker to St. Cloud State’s hopes at a rally from a two-goal deficit.

The Minutemen kept pouring it on for a 5-0 victory but Lagunov’s goal for a 3-0 advantage was critical for its timing and its style.

As for remembering it? Let’s just say Lagunov’s puck-handling skills were better than his recollection.

“It happened really fast,” Lagunov said. “I blacked out.”

Lagunov caught up to the puck just outside the St. Cloud State logo in the neutral zone of the PPG Paints Arena ice and had Huskies defender Nick Perbix tracking back at the middle of the blue line.

After entering the zone and seeing Perbix coming at him to dislodge the puck, Lagunov hit the brakes and eluded the St. Cloud player’s attempted right-shoulder check. The puck went between Perbix’s stick and skates, and Lagunov collected it again on the other side, at the inside of the right circle.

That wasn’t the only nice move the senior center had in his toolkit. The right-handed shooter made a slight fake on his forehand and went to his backhand as backchecking St. Cloud State forward Nolan Walker missed a poke at the puck from behind.

Lagunov’s backhand shot squeezed under goaltender David Hrenak’s left arm and bounced over the goal line for the first short-handed goal allowed by the Huskies since Feb. 21, 2020.

“The guy was diving down toward me,” Lagunov said. “I used my space to try to beat him.”

UMass’ fifth short-handed goal of the season tied for second behind Boston College’s eight. Lagunov was the fifth Minutemen player to score on the penalty kill, joining Carson Gicewicz, Bobby Trivigno, Zac Jones and Oliver Chau.

“We tried to make a zone-entry play that was a tough play,” St. Cloud State coach Brett Larson said. “And then a one-on-one type situation where we got a little overaggressive on it. And I thought that was the turning point of the game when they went up 3-0.”

Lagunov scored in two of his first three games of the season but his only other score before Saturday was against Northeastern in a Hockey East quarterfinal victory on March 14.

A turning-point goal was a big contribution Saturday.

“It’s surreal,” Lagunov said. “Having it in the senior year, it’s an unbelievable experience.”