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Minutemen get first victory of the year

HockASomewhere among the 24 penalties committed by both teams, the Massachusetts hockey team and Rensselaer did manage to play a hockey game Thursday night. Outside of the penalty box, Matt Irwin scored twice and James Marcou tied his career high with four assists, as the Minutemen won its season opener against the Engineers, 5-2.

UMass (1-0-0) recovered from a slow first half to storm back into the game, putting up three goals early in the second period. Goalkeeper Paul Dainton was solid on the night, recording 28 saves, putting a stopper on any chance for an RPI comeback.

The Engineers (0-1-0) had the upper hand offensively for most of the first period, outshooting the Minutemen 16-6. Neither team converted on their power play opportunities, but RPI  utilized the momentum created by one to score the game’s first goal.

The Minutemen killed off a Michael Lecomte slashing penalty late in the period, but failed to clear the puck, as the Engineers maintained pressure on offense. After RPI bombarded the UMass net, junior Tyler Helfrich finally beat out Dainton on the right side on a rebound for the score. During the sequence, the Engineers got off 12 shots, eight of which were saved by Dainton.

“I thought it was a playback from last Saturday night’s exhibition game,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said of the team’s slow start in the first period. “When the game started, the opponent had more intensity, was on the puck and out-competed us.”

Just over two minutes into the second period, the Minutemen found themselves with a 5-on-3 opportunity. After failing to convert on its first four chances, UMass put one in the back of the net after Marcou fed the puck to Casey Wellman in the slot. Wellman went top shelf on RPI goalie Allen York for the first UMass goal of the year.

The Minutemen’s power play success continued later in the period when, 14 seconds into a power play, Justin Braun beat out York to give UMass the lead. Minutes later, Marcou intercepted a pass deep into the RPI zone. Marcou lost it, but freshman Rocco Carzo quickly scooped it up, and put it past York for the first goal of his career.

“We had to regroup. We were playing pretty soft, I think. We were really easy to play against. We were doing everything from the outside. We weren’t getting any shots on net,” Irwin said. “We had to come in after intermission and regroup, start getting greasy, [and] start getting pucks to the net.”

The Engineers would respond with a goal on their own to close out the period. After a Marcou tripping penalty, Brandon Pirri won the face off, which was taken by Tyler Helfrich, who caught Dainton out of position for the quick goal.

The second period brought no shortage of opportunities for the Minutemen, as the Engineers committed seven penalties, giving UMass four powers plays, two of which were 5-on-3’s.

UMass opened the third period with a two-man advantage and wasted little time converting on it as Marcou passed out to the perimeter to Irwin, who blasted one into the back of the net just 20 seconds in. Irwin and Marcou would hookup again in the third on the power play with 9:24 left in the game.

Though the teams were tied with five shots apiece in the third period, UMass picked up its two goals by taking advantage of the power play. UMass’ 10 power play chances on the night is not something that is expected to carry over next week, as the Minutemen face defending national champion No. 2 Boston University Saturday at home.      

Nick O’Malley can be reached at nomalley@student.umass.edu.

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