No lead has been safe for the Massachusetts hockey team so far this season.
But, Friday night, UMass (3-4, 2-4 Hockey East Association) finally found the recipe for success and put together arguably its best complete-game performance, shutting out Providence 4-0, in front of 4,024 at the Mullins Center.
“For our guys, it’s funny, I don’t think we were much different tonight than we have been on any other night, other than we converted a few more of our opportunities and managed our mistakes a hair better,” UMass coach John Micheletto said.
A few more converted opportunities in previous games for the Minutemen is the difference from this team being a 3-4 team and being a 6-1 team. Third period leads have been UMass’ kryptonite so far this season, losing three games in which it has held a lead at some point in the third period. Two of those blown leads have been multi-goal leads.
“You’re going to check off a couple of boxes of things that we’ve overcome and things that we’ve been able to do,” Micheletto said. “What are we going to learn from and what are we going to feel confident about because we’ve done it? Those are lessons that you need to learn.”
One of the toughest obstacles that UMass has had trouble overcoming is the ability to bounce back after giving up a third period goal. In its three blown leads, the Minutemen were never able to get the forward momentum going following a conceded goal.
Friday night was not the case, however, as the team never gave the Friars (4-4-1, 3-3 HEA) a chance to get anything going. UMass took a 3-0 lead into the third period and rather than sitting back, it kept pushing forward, creating numerous chances for itself and keeping Providence from generating any opportunities of its own.
The team was also backed by strong defensive zone play, blocking 13 Friar shot attempts. Even when shots did reach the net, sophomore Kevin Boyle was there to support his team, stopping all 17 shots he faced, making it hard on PC to overcome its deficit.
“The team played well in front of me,” Boyle said. “I think it was like eight or nine shots going into the third period. It’s tough to stay in it, but the team did a nice job in front. It was easy.”
Protecting leads has been a focal point for the Minutemen thus far this year. UMass has made a note of it to get off to good starts and keep the foot on the gas pedal, preaching full 60-minute efforts night in and night out.
“Well first we wanted to get off to a good start and I think we did a good job doing that,” junior Troy Power said. “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 with that. I think what happened in the past we put behind us and we use them as learning experiences. But moving forward, we need to be a team that finishes and third periods have to be our best period.”
Filiou leaves game with injury
Junior forward Eric Filiou left Friday’s game with an apparent shoulder injury.. After the game Micheletto called it a “generic upper-body injury,” and that the severity of the injury and his status for next week is uncertain.
Filiou suffered the injury midway through the third period after he was checked into the boards at an awkward angle following a whistle in the defensive zone. After staying down on the ice for a few minutes, he skated off under his own power.
Filiou has been a mainstay in the Minutemen lineup so far this year, playing in every game, accumulating one assist on the year. He has 12 points in his UMass career.
Patrick Strohecker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @MDC_Strohecker.