The Massachusetts hockey team watched another lead evaporate before its eyes Tuesday.
This time the Minutemen suffered a 5-4 overtime loss to Northeastern at the Mullins Center in front of 2,765 fans.
UMass (10-16-2, 7-13-1 Hockey East Association) held a 3-1 lead early in the second period and led 4-3 at the end of the frame, but not for long.
After Robbie Vrolyk tied the game in the third period, Josh Manson sealed the Huskies’ (9-16-3, 5-13-3 HEA) victory four minutes, four seconds into overtime after Mike McMurtry fed him the puck and Manson blasted a shot past Minutemen goalie Steve Mastalerz for his first career goal.
Mastalerz was under constant pressure during the overtime period, as UMass was outshot 6-0. He made 40 saves overall for the Minutemen.
After the game, UMass coach John Micheletto said the game was “a missed opportunity.”
Long before the overtime period, the Minutemen took a 3-1 lead on a goal by Darren Rowe at the 2:04 mark of the second period.
But Northeastern responded with two-straight goals to even the score at 3-3. The first came after Mastalerz went out of his crease to play the puck behind his net, but the puck deflected to the front and Robbie Vrolyk scored on a wide open net. Then Cody Ferriero tied the game on a wrist shot past Mastalerz at the 16:28 mark.
“Well you got a two-goal lead,” Micheletto said, “we need to maintain the puck and maintain the momentum or reel the momentum back in at those opportunities when you lose it.
“Giving up those next two was not the way we play.”
On the other side of the ice, Huskies coach Jim Madigan said his team had a sense they could come back from the two-goal deficit.
“There was a believability on our bench, you know there was a poise and a composure on our bench that our guys just knew they were coming back,” Madigan said. “From a coaching perspective it’s great when you have that feeling and you see it.”
UMass momentarily seized back momentum when Michael Pereira scored his second goal of the game on a strong individual effort with 1:07 left in the second frame. He blew past a Northeastern defender and found himself wide open in front of the net on a breakaway opportunity, which he pushed past Huskies’ goalie Chris Rawlings.
But that momentum went up in smoke after Pereira was called for a hooking penalty 15 seconds into the third period.
“(It’s) difficult to get the momentum going when you get called for a hooking penalty 15 seconds into the third period,” Micheletto said.
The game started a half-hour late after there was an issue with the ice, but once the game began, the teams traded three power play goals in the first period.
Shane Walsh scored the first 6:19 into the period. He put home a lose puck, which trickled right to his stick after Patrick Kiley and Pereira went tick-tack-toe to find Walsh open to the right of Rawlings, who finished with 28 saves before he was replaced by Bryan Mountain in the third period. Mountain made seven saves and didn’t allow a goal in relief of Rawlings.
Then at the 8:20 mark, Mastalerz made a pad save, but Adam Reid found the rebound and scored, evening the score at 1-1.
UMass took the lead back with only 30 seconds left in the period on Pereira’s first goal.
The Minutemen will be back in action at the Mullins Center this weekend for a pair of critical late-season conference home games with Maine, who is one point behind them in the standings for the eighth and final playoff position. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Cameron McDonough can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @Cam_McDonough.