Minutemen finish winter break on three-game winning streak
With more wins this January (3) than the past two Januaries combined (2), the Massachusetts hockey team silenced all questions its critics had entering this year’s winter break.
Despite a three-game losing streak, the No. 19 Minutemen (14-8-0, 9-6-0 Hockey East) finished their winter break with a 4-3 record on a three-game winning streak, reaching third place in the Hockey East Standings. Here is a recap of UMass’ games over break:
Jan. 16: UMass 2 – UML 1
For the first time this season, the No. 19 Minutemen swept a weekend series, something few teams have accomplished in Hockey East this season.
A late power-play goal with 1:07 by Matt Irwin at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell, Mass., lifted UMass over UMass-Lowell and gave it the Alumni Cup for winning the season series.
Marc Concannon gave the Minutemen an early 1-0 lead, despite being outshot 14-6 in the first period.
With eight minutes to play in the second period, the River Hawks’ Patrick Cey netted the equalizer, the only mistake made by UMass’ Paul Dainton (28 saves).
In the final frame, UML was called for five penalties, two coming late in the game, giving the Minutemen a 5-on-3 man advantage. Irwin capitalized on the power play to extend UMass’ winning streak to three and put an end to the question of their annual January collapse.
Jan. 15: UMass 3 – UML 2
With goals by James and Michael Marcou in the third period, the Minutemen avoided a late collapse to UML to take the first game of the home-and-home set and jump into third place in the HEA standings.
UMass jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first quarter, and – behind a strong performance from Dainton (31 saves) – found itself in a 1-1 game to start the third period.
James Marcou, the nation’s leading scorer, notched his seventh goal of the game after putting in a rebound on a Casey Wellman shot in front of the net. The goal put UMass up 2-1, until David Vallorani tied it back up at two with 5:06 left in regulation.
After Danny Hobbs was called for a penalty, the momentum seemed to be shifting in the favor of the River Hawks. However, a UML penalty shortly after set four-on-four play, resulting in Michael Marcou’s game-winning goal with 2:19 left.
Jan. 10: UMass 4 – Northeastern 1
Dealing with a three-game losing streak, the Minutemen came away with a much-needed win over the Huskies at the Matthews Arena.
Behind strong play from both power-play units, UMass built a 4-0 lead by the end of the second period with three power-play goals. The penalty-kill unit was a perfect 6-for-6 when Northeastern had the man advantage.
Wellman started off the scoring in the first period with his 17th goal of the season on the power play, and Rocco Carzo added another at the end of the period with both squads at even strength. Within an 18-second period in the second quarter, James Marcou and Will Ortiz notched their sixth and 10th goals on the season, respectively, to put the Minutemen up 4-0.
Tyler McNeely ended goaltender Dainton’s (12 saves) hopes of a shutout two minutes, 10 seconds into the final frame, when he scored his sixth goal of the season to give the Huskies their only goal of the game.
Jan. 9: UNH 7 – UMass 2
Besides a 2-5 loss to then-No. 4 Cornell on Jan. 3, New Hampshire hadn’t lost since UMass stole a game back on Nov. 13. For the Minutemen, the Wildcats were the last team they wanted to see as it tried to get back on track and avoid another collapse in January.
UNH wasted no time, scoring two goals in the first six minutes of the game, and later added two more at the end of the first period to hold a 4-0 lead heading into the middle frame. T.J. Syner would score an unassisted goal 23 seconds into the second period, but the Wildcats would add two more in the period.
Dan Meyers got the start for UMass in goal, making 26 saves while allowing seven goals.
Jan. 2: BU 7 – UMass 3
After a disappointing first half of the season, Boston University came out of the new year looking to make a statement, and did so with a convincing 7-3 victory over UMass at home.
Both teams scored three power-play goals in the contest, but the Minutemen were 3-of-12 while the Terriers were 3-of-6 on the night. Trailing 4-2, the Minutemen were still within reach at the start of the final period, but three goals by BU put the game out of reach.
Syner, Wellman and Ortiz each found the back of the net for UMass, while Zach Cohen and Colby Cohen led the way with two goals apiece for BU. Dainton allowed six goals while making 22 saves on the night.
Dec. 30: Bentley 4 – UMass 1
UMass came into the UConn Hockey Classic as the favorite, but left disappointed as they fell in the championship game to Bentley behind a 42-save performance by Kyle Rank.
The Falcons managed just 16 shots in the game but made them count when they did, sneaking three past Dainton and scoring another on an empty net.
Kevin Czepial scored his first goal of the season to give UMass a 1-0 lead midway through the second period, but Bentley would tie it 1:26 later and go on to score four unanswered goals on their way to winning the tournament.
Dec. 29: UMass 4 – Union 3
Despite trailing 3-1 at the start of the third period, Wellman scored two goals and Ortiz added a third for the Minutemen in the final period to advance past the first round of the UConn Hockey Classic.
Dainton played well in net for UMass against then-No. 18 Union, stopping 36 shots, including all 12 in the third period.
The win set up a match up between the Minutemen and Bentley after the Falcons topped host UConn in the opening round.
Jeffrey R. Larnard can be reached at email@example.com.