Returning back home to the Mullins Center, the Massachusetts hockey team recorded its fourth straight victory before getting its winning streak snapped by Hockey East foe Vermont in a physical, penalty-filled contest.
The No. 15 Minutemen (15-9-0, 10-7-0 HEA) received a strong performance from goaltender Paul Dainton in their 3-1 win Saturday, only to be shut out, 3-0, by the Catamounts’ Rob Madore on Sunday for the first time this season.
Unlike the contest the previous night, the second game of the series saw more penalties whistled, beginning in the first period. A total of seven penalties were called in the first 20 minutes with UMass getting the edge in power-play opportunities.
The Catamounts (12-8-2, 6-7-2 HEA) were the team to capitalize however, as sophomore defenseman Drew MacKenzie scored his first goal of the season 12 minutes, 31 seconds into the game to give Vermont the early lead.
The second frame crawled along sluggishly as eight more penalties were whistled. Neither team’s power-play unit was able to score, as both penalty kill squads played well.
Vermont, however, added to its lead with an even-strength goal from Wahsontiio Stacey 7:40 into the period, putting it up 2-0 heading into the final 20 minutes.
In the third period, UMass outshot Vermont, 12-6, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Madore, whose uncle passed away earlier in the week, played well with a heavy heart, making 31 saves to hand the Minutemen their first shutout loss.
After only four penalties being whistled on Saturday, special teams played a larger role in Sunday’s contest. Entering the weekend, the Catamounts penalty kill disarmed 40-of-42 previous opponent man-advantage chances. Despite giving up numerous opportunities Sunday, Vermont managed to kill off all 11 Minutemen power-play opportunities over the weekend.
“Last night was not a story of special teams, but tonight was a story of special teams,” Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon said. “I think our penalty kill did a fabulous job tonight, [UMass] is one of the best power play units in the country. To limit their opportunities, that was probably the difference in the game.”
On Saturday night, the Minutemen got things started quickly as junior forward James Marcou put UMass ahead, 1-0, with a goal in the first 21 seconds of play. Despite only scoring his eighth goal of the season, Marcou added on to his nation-leading 39 total points.
The Minutemen got their first power-play opportunity 3:16 into the contest, but failed to score on the stingy Vermont penalty kill.
Nearly midway through the first period, the Catamounts answered with a score of their own as senior forward Jay Anctil beat Dainton for his first point of the season.
Towards the end of the second frame, the Minutemen received another power-play opportunity when Vermont had too many players on the ice. UMass created chances to score and pelted Madore, but failed to come away with a goal as the Vermont penalty kill once again kept the puck out of the net.
With five seconds remaining in the period, though, the Minutemen received a goal from sophomore forward Casey Wellman, who caught the Catamounts in an untimely line change, to head into the final frame with a 2-1 lead.
In a mostly uneventful third period where no penalties were whistled and the only goal scored was a UMass insurance goal by Wellman with a minute remaining, the Minutemen held off Vermont for a 3-1 victory.
The two goals for Wellman give him a total of 19 for the season, placing him first in the nation ahead of Nick Johnson of Sacred Heart.
Despite the Catamounts’ penalty kill keeping the UMass power-play unit under wraps, the Minutemen received enough offense for Dainton, who played well for the fourth consecutive game, allowing only one score while making 25 saves.
After splitting the weekend games, UMass is now tied with Boston College for second in the Hockey East, five points behind conference-leader New Hampshire.
The Minutemen return to action this weekend when they head on the road to face Boston University and Providence.
Jay Asser can be reached at email@example.com.