The Minutemen skated into the Whittemore Center at New Hampshire atop the Hockey East standings at this early juncture. The Wildcats are on a one game winning streak after beating Vermont last weekend in their home opener here in Durham. UMass has bested the likes of a resurgent RPI, #1 Ohio St, and a very strong Merrimack team. Tonight’s contest should be a back and forth affair on UNH’s Olympic sized sheet.
First period action was back and forth as predicted with both teams trading early scoring chances. The game had a quick pace with solid position play by both squads. UMass was able to capitalize on both UNH defensive zone mistakes in this frame. A poor clearing attempt by Sophomore Patrick Grasso went right to UMass defenseman Marc Del Gaizo who snapped a pass to Oliver Chau in front of Wildcat goalie Mike Robinson, who slid the puck through his legs back to Mitchell Chaffee who put it past Robinson for a 1-0 lead @ 7:19. The Minutemen caught the Wildcats flat footed in their zone again when Jacob Pritchard set up shop behind Robinson and waited for Philip Lagunov to walk in unchecked. Pritchard fed it to Lagunov who blasted a snapper through Robinson’s five hole. The only Power Plays of the period came after the scoring action when UNH Defenseman Anthony Wyse hit a UMass player from behind @ 17:41. That penalty was quickly negated when UMass defenseman Ty Farmer was whistled for tripping @ 18:28. UNH would end the period with a 5 on 3 opportunity when Jake Gaudet was called for tripping also. UMass outshot UNH 12-6.
The 2nd opened with the Wildcats still on the 5-3. UNH was only able to muster 1 shot on goal during both the 5 on 3 and the 5 on 4. UMass had some active stick work throughout the first two periods, frustrating UNH’s playmakers. Throughout the entire period UNH had good offensive zone play but just couldn’t get a shot off, or missed the net. When UMass goalie Matt Murray was out of position the Wildcats had to contend with a bouncing puck. It was that type of period for UNH. When things seemed to be heading in the wildcats favor Cale Makar struck. Makar skated the ice into the UNH zone, dished it to Gaudet, who passed it to Chaffee. Chaffee wheeled through the zone a bit and found Makar creeping in from the point. Makar put it in the top right corner past Robinson. 3-0 UMass. The Wildcats closed the shot gap outshooting UMass 8-2 making 14 all after 2.
The third period was more of a chippy affair. Heavy hits, scrums after the whistle, and some 4 on 4 action at 14:57. UNH’s Brendan van Riemsdyk was called for cross checking and UMass’ Chaffee was called for slashing. Overall this one was marked by the physicality of the game. The offense of UNH continued to miss chances, while UMass continued to click. The UMass Power Play finally got on the board when Makar set up John Leonard @ 12:22 to make it 4-1 Minutemen. UNH would finally break through when UMass got sloppy around the net, turning the puck over and Kohei Sato knocked in his first goal of the season allowing the fish to be seen tonight. (Asissted by Ara Nazarian and Liam Blackburn). Just seconds later Jacob Pritchard would race down the right side and squeeze one past Robinson putting the deficit back to 4 as the final seconds wound down.
Post game, UMass Coach Greg Carvel was pleased to get out of the Whittemore Center with the team’s first win there in 12 years. Coach Carvel said the game plan was “to frustrate UNH.” To attack them. And to not let their speed beat them. While Coach Mike Souza was disappointed with his team’s sloppy play. He feels that the Wildcats need to “protect the puck better through the neutral zone.”
UMass hosts Providence Thursday @ 7pm while UNH travels to UMass-Lowell on Friday with a 715p puck drop.