Things finally started to click for Michael Pereira on Friday night.
The junior forward was held scoreless in the Massachusetts hockey team’s first six games of the season, but he finally broke through Friday night in UMass’ (3-4-0, 2-4-0 Hockey East Association) 4-0 win over Providence in front of 4,024 at the Mullins Center.
Pereira’s goal was one of three Minutemen goals in the second, which proved to be more than enough for goaltender Kevin Boyle, who made 17 saves and recorded his first collegiate shutout in the process.
The breakthrough for Pereira came four minutes, 27 seconds into the second period when he scored seven seconds into a UMass power play caused by Friars (4-4-1, 3-3-0 HEA) defenseman Myles Harvey, who went to the penalty box for hitting from behind. Freshman forward Shane Walsh and junior forward Conor Sheary were credited with the assists on the goal.
The Minutemen have now scored a power play goal in seven straight games, which is the longest streak for the Minutemen since the 2003-04 season.
After the game, Pereira talked about finally breaking through for his first goal of the season.
“It was big,” Pereira said. “Once it went in obviously it got off my mind a bit, not that it was on my mind in the first place. I just wanted to play my game and (Friday) was the first day that I really felt like I gave what our team needed out of not only me, but our line.
“Our line played tremendous I felt. It’s one of those things where it’s good, but I want the second, I want the third and fourth (goals), I want to be greedy and that’s what goal scorers are.”
UMass coach John Micheletto said that Pereira wasn’t physically frustrated during his ‘slump’ and that tonight was just a product of him continuing to work hard.
“It’s funny because I haven’t seen Mike really be frustrated So I’d like to make it sound like he had an epiphany today and it was all good coaching,” he said. Mike’s gone about his business in practice and in games and he hasn’t cut corners. He hadn’t let it impact who he is. So, I think he’s handled it very well. We just kind of kept telling him keep playing the way you are playing and opportunities will come.
“The goal that he scored was vintage Mike Pereira: grind it out in the corner, take it hard to the net and make a nice play, score a goal.”
Pereira and the Minutemen were far from done in the second frame. UMass added to its lead with a shorthanded goal by junior defenseman Conor Shea seven minutes, 28 seconds into the second period. Senior forward and co-captain Rocco Carzo found the puck in the middle of the ice and found junior forward Troy Power, who then passed it up to Shea, who finished it from there for his second goal of the season.
For good measure, junior forward Branden Gracel pushed the lead to 3-0 when he banged home a rebound off a Pereira shot, who was credited with an assist at the 17:29 mark in the second period. It was Gracel’s third goal of the season.
UMass extended its lead to 4-0 thanks to Power, who ripped his second goal in as many games past Friars goaltender Jon Gillies, who made 28 saves in a losing effort, 17:46 into the third period. Pereira was credited with his second assist of the game, which marked his first multi-goal game since last season when he had a hat trick against Providence Feb. 11.
It was a relatively easy night for Boyle in goal despite the shutout. In fact, it was the first time the Minutemen have shut out PC since 2004. But Boyle gave a majority of the credit to his teammates after the game.
“The team played well in front of me,” he said. “I think it was eight or nine shots going into the third period. It was tough to stay in it, but the team played well in front and got it done.”
The one negative for UMass came in the third period when junior forward Eric Filiou went down on the ice with what Micheletto described as a “generic upper body injury.” He skated off the ice under his own power after receiving help initially.
In the end, UMass was able to hold onto a substantial lead, which is a confidence boost for a team that had lost three games after taking a lead into the third period so far this season.
“It’s something we talked about,” Power said. “First we want to get off to a good start and we did a good job doing that. In between the second and the third, we wanted to prove to people that we could finish hockey games and I think we did a good job of that. “What happened in the past is something we need to put behind us and we use it as learning experiences. Moving forward we need to be a team that finished and third periods need to be our best periods.”
The Minutemen will see if they can build upon this win next weekend when they travel to Maine on Friday at 7 p.m.
Cameron McDonough can be reached at email@example.com and can be followed on Twitter @MDC_McDonough.