Ann Arbor, MI – The defending National Champion University of Massachusetts Minutemen had their first ever experience with the University of Michigan Wolverines and Yost Arena on Saturday. It wasn’t pretty for the Minutemen. Led by two goals from sophomore Brendan Brisson, the Wolverines’ top-line proved too much for the visiting Minutemen. Brisson and his linemates Kent Johnson and Matty Beniers factored into three of the four Michigan goals as the Wolverines topped Massachusetts 4-1.
The Wolverines took an early lead at 1:15 when Brisson fired off a shot from the slot that beat Matt Murray glove-side high. Kent Johnson and Jack Summers assisted on Brisson’s 12th goal.
The Wolverines controlled play early as the Minutemen awe the Yost experience and the high NHL Draft picks on the Michigan roster.
UMass forward Jerry Harding earned a holding penalty at 11:52. The Minutemen weathered the Wolverines’ power-play and helped turn the momentum their way.
Erik Portillo (28 saves) made a diving save during a scramble in his crease as he knocked away a Lucas Mercuri bid.
Garrett Wait evened things up for the Minutemen at 15:49 when he wrapped around the Michigan goal and fired off a shot from the side of the net. Somehow the puck found its way past Portillo. Bobby Trivigno and Josh Lopina assisted on Wait’s sixth goal of the year.
The goaltending was the story of the middle frame. Mainly it was the play of Murray, who had quite a few big stops to keep the score tied going into the third period.
“He was outstanding. He made a ton of big saves. A lot of pucks his way and he looked like he was very much in control and comfortable and in the net,” said Massachusetts coach Greg Carvel. “It was a pretty lopsided game, and Matt made it seem like a close game.”
Murray stonewalled Johnny Beecher on a short-handed breakaway at 6:30. Then he turned away a Beniers bid. Murray had help from the crossbar during a two-on-one in which Johnson beat him with a wrist shot. Murray also paddled away a Luke Morgan bid from in front of the goal.
In the third period, the Wolverines pulled ahead on a three-on-one goal by Johnson. Minutemen defenseman Ty Farmer’s turnover leads to Brisson carrying into the offensive zone with Beniers and Johnson in support. Lone Minuteman defender Scott Morrow slid to try to break up Brisson and limit his options, but Brisson deftly sauced the puck over Morrow towards Johnson at the far post. The sophomore tapped the puck out of the air and past Murray for his fifth goal at 7:59.
Massachusetts had a solid push after the goal, but Portillo was solid between the pipes for Michigan.
Brisson struck again at 16:48 to make it 3-1 Wolverines. Once again, the two-on-one spelled disaster for the Minutemen. Beniers and Brisson skated in on Morrow, Brisson one-timed a slapshot from the right face-off dot that deflected off Morrow’s glove and past Murray.
An empty-net goal by Beecher at 19:32 was the proverbial nail in the coffin. Michael Pastujov and Portillo assisted on Beecher’s third goal of the season.
“I’m not real happy with the way we played tonight,” said Carvel. “We made a lot of mistakes, gave up a lot of odd-man rushes. Our plan today was to try to limit their scoring chances and try to frustrate them. I think we’re the frustrated team tonight.”
“I’ll be honest; I think our guys are a little bit in awe. I think they gave the opponent a lot of respect, which they deserve, they’re a very good team, but I just felt like this was a big game, and our guys’ eyes were a little too big, and we weren’t ready to start,” added Carvel. “We gave them a little more respect than probably needed to.”
“Yeah, I thought I was a really good hockey game tonight, very good team. You can see why they (UMass) haven’t lost in regulation since opening weekend,” said Wolverines coach Mel Pearson. “They play hard, they play physical, they make you earn everything. We had to tonight.”
“I don’t know what it was like to watch, but it was intense down on the ice,” added Pearson.
The two teams face off again on Sunday at 4:00 pm.