First period hurting Minutemen
Despite receiving contributions from the usual suspects, the Massachusetts hockey team couldn’t dig itself out of an early first period hole.
The Minutemen defense surrendered three goals to No. 9 Quinnipiac in the first period as the Bobcats (12-1-0, 7-0-0 Eastern College Athletic Conference) pelted UMass goalkeeper Dan Meyers with 15 shots. The three-goal deficit was the largest of the season for the No. 10 Minutemen (9-3-0, 5-2-0 Hockey East), making it nearly impossible for UMass to pick up its third consecutive win.
Though the Minutemen eventually lost, 5-4, in overtime, they completed a comeback to take a lead in the game.
After the first period, UMass coach Don Cahoon made a change in goal, replacing Meyers with Paul Dainton. The junior started the first seven games of the season, and recently has been splitting time with Meyers after the senior returned from a suspension on Nov. 8 at Niagara.
In the previous game against then-No.18 Vermont, Dainton started and played the entire game and allowed two goals in the process of making 27 saves.
As only a junior, Dainton has been one of the top goaltenders in the Hockey East, ranking in the top three for goals-average against, save percentage and winning percentage.
After Dainton entered the game, he stymied the Quinnipiac offense for the second and most of the third period, while the Minutemen scored four straight goals to take the lead.
In over 42 minutes of play, Dainton recorded 28 saves, 19 of which came in the final period.
For the UMass offense, familiar faces were getting the job done in leading the Minutemen back into the contest.
Sophomore Casey Wellman scored two goals while Will Ortiz added a goal and an assist. The two scores give Wellman a team-leading 11 on the season, placing him second in the Hockey East behind New Hampshire’s Bobby Butler as the conference’s only two double-digit goal scorers.
The two points recorded by Ortiz tie him with Justin Braun as UMass’ third-leading point scorer with 13.
For the Minutemen, the loss marks the first on the road this season after beginning the year with four straight wins away from the Mullins Center, including two victories over ranked opponents.
The loss is also the first suffered by UMass to a non-conference opponent. The two previous losses came against Hockey East foes Providence and New Hampshire.
Power play struggling
The best strategy for opposing teams against the Minutemen this season has been to stay out of the penalty box. Though UMass boasts the highest scoring offense in the Hockey East, much of that is attributed to their conference-leading power play unit.
UMass has a 29 percent success rate in power play situations so far this season, while holding opponents to only 17 percent. In all three of the Minutemen losses, the offense has struggled in the power play, going a combined 1-for-7 on the man advantage.
Going forward, UMass will look to play physical and draw penalties to give their power play unit opportunities to put up goals.
Jay Asser can be reached at email@example.com.