On Saturday, the Massachusetts men’s hockey team avoided what could have been a disastrous weekend at the hands of Northeastern.
Minutemen tie in overtime thriller
After losing 3-0 to the Huskies in Boston Friday, the Minutemen returned home to a raucous crowd at the Mullins Center, eventually tying their conference rivals, 2-2.
The game was tense throughout and featured plenty of momentum shifts, penalties and a physicality level that UMass (6-13-5, 5-8-5 Hockey East) has not seen yet this year.
“[Northeastern] is as physical a team as there is in our league and they’re a team that took it away from us on Friday on that front,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said. “That’s they’re makeup, and our younger guys are learning more about it each and every weekend.”
Northeastern (8-10-7, 7-7-6 HE) quieted the home crowd just 33 seconds into the first period on senior Wade MacLeod’s team-leading twelfth goal of the season. NU’s Steve Silva started the sequence by throwing a wrist shot on goal that Paul Dainton turned aside. NU’s Tyler McNeely then gathered the loose puck behind the net and found MacLeod in the slot, who fired a shot past Dainton for the 1-0 lead.
UMass responded immediately with two goals in two minutes from Chase Langeraap and Michael Pereira. Langeraap, a senior, tied the game with his sixth goal of the season, a wrap-around effort from behind the net that just beat Husky goaltender Chris Rawlings.
The Minutemen then made it 2-1 on Pereira’s team-leading tenth goal of the season. Pereira, a freshman, positioned himself in the high slot during a UMass 3-on-1 rush that began with Colin Shea passing to Conor Sheary in transition. Sheary then led the rush and found Pereira, who unleashed a perfect shot over Rawlings’ left shoulder.
“It was a real pivotal game for us emotionally to be able to hang in there,” Cahoon said. “We would’ve liked a better result, but I felt good about the team and the effort that [the players] made.”
“Tonight was really important to not just cave in and succumb to what could’ve been a disastrous weekend,” Cahoon added.
Neither team would score for the remainder of the period, as UMass went into the first intermission holding a 2-1 lead.
Northeastern came out with a vengeance in the second period, outshooting the Minutemen, 11-0. MacLeod tied the game at two apiece three minutes into the stanza, taking advantage of a failed clearing attempt by the Minutemen. The clearing attempt hit a body on its way out of the zone and landed right in front of the faceoff circle, where MacLeod picked up the puck and sent a backhander through Dainton’s legs to tie the game. The Huskies did not let up for the remainder of the period, using physical play to control the puck and pace of the game.
UMass lost forward Danny Hobbs earlier in the game to an injury, as he joins a group of Minutemen currently listed as day-to-day.
“From a coaching perspective, it was a really interesting game because of what took place [on Friday], our lineup and the way it had to be put together, the resolve that it took within our locker room to get an honest effort from everyone and not dwell on the fact that some of us weren’t there,” said Cahoon.
The Minutemen escaped the second period without further damage, and took the 2-2 tie into the third.
The third period was evenly-played, as Northeastern held a 6-5 edge in shots. The best opportunity for UMass came with over six minutes to play, as it went on a 5-on-3 power play for 45 seconds. The Minutemen continually tried to set up shots from the point, but Rawlings denied the efforts, carrying the Huskies into the five minute overtime period.
“We brought it tonight and we certainly had as many opportunities as they did to put it away,” Cahoon said. “Our penalty kill was fabulous, and I thought we had some pretty good looks on the power play… finishing is another story altogether.”
The overtime period belonged to UMass, which outshot Northeastern, 8-2. With time dwindling down, Dainton made a clutch save to preserve the tie. Dainton finished with 30 saves to Rawlings’ 39.
The Minutemen will try to build on their effort for the remaining 10 games, nine of which come against ranked opponents.
“This team’s in for a slugfest,” Cahoon said. “Anything we can get along the way is going to help us grow and maybe give us a mentality and a base to grow from and to build off of to succeed.”
Steve Levine can be reached at email@example.com.