UMass leads St. Cloud State by 4 entering third period of national championship game

UMass’ Reed Lebster (13) celebrates his first-period goal against St. Cloud State (photo: Jim Rosvold).

PITTSBURGH — Special teams helped UMass double its lead in the second period of the 2021 national championship game and the Minutemen lead St. Cloud State, 4-0, with 20 minutes standing between the them and their first national championship.

Philip Lagunov scored short-handed at 5:10 and Matthew Kessel scored on the power play at 13:50 to put a stranglehold on the game.

Lagunov’s goal was highlight reel material. Picking up a loose puck on the penalty kill at the defensive blue line, Lagunov accelerated up the right wing. When Nick Perbix went for an open-ice hit and missed, Lagunov was alone on netminder David Hrenak and stuffed a shot under the armpit for a 3-0 lead.

After killing the remainder of that penalty and another midway through the period, UMass went to the power play at 12:35 when St. Cloud State was whistled for too many men.

The UMass power play was a clinic in passing and finally Oliver Chau moved the puck back to Kessel who launched it top shelf for the 4-0 advantage.

Massachusetts played opportunistic hockey in the opening period. Though St. Cloud controlled the period territorially, the Huskies mustered just three shots on goal, though that didn’t include Veeti Miettinen’s shot off the post just 90 seconds into the game.

As things settled in for the Minutemen, they found ways to capitalize on mistakes.

As St. Cloud State was looking to attack in the UMass zone, defenseman Ty Farmer grabbed a loose puck and hit Aaron Bohlinger with an outlet pass. While Bohlinger was likely to be in alone, two St. Cloud defensemen collided, allowing Ryan Sullivan to jump in the play for a 2-on-0. Working the give-and-go, Bohlinger buried his first collegiate goal at 7:26 for the 1-0 lead.

After UMass killed the period’s only penalty, it was able to extend the lead late. Cal Kiefiuk picked off Sam Hentges clearing pass along the left board, curled below the goal line and fired a goal-mouth pass that Reed Lebster buried at 18:56 for a 2-0 advantage.