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Minutemen split weekend series with UNH

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The Massachusetts hockey team could not duplicate its come-from-behind, 4-3, win from Friday as it fell to New Hampshire, 4-2, Saturday night.

Behind 33 saves by UNH’s Brian Foster, the Wildcats held the No. 14 Minutemen to just two goals in the second period to split the weekend series in Amherst.

“I actually thought in many ways that our team played better tonight then they did last night,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said after Saturday’s loss. “The problem being that we gave up a couple of goals that were just bad positional play on our part.”

The Wildcats (3-6-2, 3-2-1 Hockey East) took a 1-0 lead in the first period of Saturday’s contest off a Bobby Butler goal before UMass (7-2-0, 4-2-0 HEA) tied it in the second period. Four minutes, 37 seconds into the period, Will Ortiz notched his third goal of the season when he received a pass from Justin Braun.

“I ended up in the right spot at the right time, right in the slot,” Ortiz said of his goal in Saturday’s loss. “I saw a hole on Foster’s right shoulder, I didn’t hesitate and I just took a shot and I believe it just went underneath his arm and through the net.”

The tie only lasted 44 seconds as Peter LeBlanc put the Wildcats up by one again, off of an assist by Blake Kessel. Butler added his third goal in the series and ninth on the season 13:47 into the second period.

With 2:19 left in the period, UMass got the first power play opportunity of the game when UNH had too many players on the ice. The advantage was cancelled out 26 seconds later when Casey Wellman was called for a slashing penalty, but UMass still managed to find the net. James Marcou found an open Martin Nolet, who fired a slap shot past the Wildcats’ Brian Foster to cut the lead back to one ath the 18:25 mark.

The Minutemen dominated the second period in shots, 20-4, yet ended the period with the same one goal deficit they entered the period with after both squads scored two goals.

“Its frustrating,” Ortiz said of the second period. “You work so hard to do what you do and capitalize on the game plan, and sometimes the puck just doesn’t bounce our way and that’s what happened.”

UMass’ hopes of another comeback disappeared when Mike Sislo added to the Wildcats’ lead 11:59 into the final period. LeBlanc found Sislo for his seventh assist of the season and Sislo’s fourth goal on the year, to help put the game further out of reach for the Minutemen.

Paul Dainton finished the game with 14 saves, a low total due to the low amount of shots the Wildcats took. UMass outshout UNH 35-18 in Saturday’s game.

The Minutemen lost a 2-0 lead Friday against UNH, but behind Wellman and David Boehm the Minutemen rallied in the final seconds and played strong in overtime to steal a 4-3 victory.

With 11 seconds remaining in the game and UMass’ goaltender pulled, Wellman found the back of the net to tie the game at three and Boehm ended the contest with the Minutemen’s fourth goal of the game 2:05 into overtime.

UNH had taken the lead early in the third period off of a Butler goal, his seventh of the season, after falling behind 2-0 in the first period. But after Cahoon called a timeout to regroup UMass with under a minute left in regulation, Wellman received a pass from Danny Hobbs.

With the momentum on their side, the Minutemen worked hard from the beginning of the extra period until Boehm was able to find the back of the net as well.

UMass had two early scoring chances in the first period after UNH’s Damon Kipp was called for charging 53 seconds into the match and then again for hooking 6:26 into the period, but were unable to capitalize on either opportunity. But with less than four minutes remaining in the first period, Michael Lecomte rifled in a goal off a rebound from an Ortiz to put the Minutemen up 1-0. The goal was Lecomte’s third goal in as many games since returning from a back injury.

Just over two minutes later, UMass would make it 2-0 after Hobbs found Justin Braun for his second goal of the game.

The Wildcats would tie it at two in the second period after goals by Steve Moses and LeBlanc. Moses would get UNH on the scoreboard first when he got the first shot past UMass’ Dainton 10:27 into the period.

Leblanc would do the same after strong penalty kill after a Michael Marcou boarding call that resulted in a two-minute penalty. After Dainton made three saves on the penalty kill, Leblanc fired a shot that found its way past UMass’ goaltender to even up the game.

UMass returns to the ice next Thursday when they travel to Vermont for another Hockey East matchup.

Jeffrey R. Larnard can be reached at jlarnard@dailycollegian.com.

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