LOWELL – For the second straight game, the Massachusetts hockey team was assessed over 25 minutes of penalties – 27 minutes on Saturday – which did not equal a winning formula for the Minutemen.
While UMass was exerting energy trying to kill penalties, No. 1 UMass Lowell (1-1), fresh off an upset loss against Sacred Heart the night before, sat in waiting and came away with a 5-2 win against its Hockey East foe in a non-conference matchup in front of 4,898 at Tsongas Center on Saturday night.
Four of the Minutemen’s (0-2) penalties came in the second period, including a five-minute major and game misconduct on Oleg Yevenko for hitting from behind, creating UML’s second 5-on-3 opportunity of the game. This was the second-straight night a UMass player was ejected for a hit from behind – Friday it was Shane Walsh. And since the Minutemen were spending most of their time on the kill, they couldn’t mount a counter during the frame, finishing with just four shots. But the positive for UMass was that it killed all but one power play out of seven on the night.
“The second period was just all penalty kills,” UMass coach John Micheletto said. “It’s tough to mount any sort of attack there other than just trying to counter punch. I thought we managed our energy well and were able to, despite playing with five defensemen for that long, to continue to push the pace and continue to create opportunities.”
UMass created multiple opportunities in the third period after entering the frame down 2-0. The Minutemen’s first tally came on a power play goal by Branden Gracel four minutes, 53 seconds into the third. The score was reviewed for a possible kick in, but it was upheld as a good goal.
Troy Power, who missed most of last season due to injury, also scored a goal on the power play for UMass, which made it 3-2 at the 13:40 mark. He scored on a backhand shot, which rebounded off of Doug Carr (27 saves) right to him off of Colin Shea’s original shot.
But the early two-goal deficit proved too much to handle.
“I though it would’ve been nice for us to convert on an early opportunity and play with the lead for one point this weekend,” Micheletto said. “We weren’t able to do that. … But when you get down two in this league, it requires you to commit to the rush a little bit maybe more than you’d like.”
And while the Minutemen got on the scoreboard in the third period, so did the River Hawks.
Right after UMass looked like it had seized momentum back after Gracel’s goal, UML struck when Scott Wilson put one on goalie Steve Mastalerz (29 saves). His shot produced a juicy rebound and went right to the stick of Joe Houk in front of the net. Houk wouldn’t miss from there less than a minute after a potential River Hawks tally was ruled no goal due to a high stick.
UML then added two late goals, one of which was an own goal by UMass and the other was an empty netter, putting the game out of reach for the Minutemen.
UMass had its fair share of opportunities to score early on, and it was in fact controlling the pace of play in the first period, but the Minutemen couldn’t come through with a goal. The River Hawks did, though, when Chris Maniccia sent a cross-ice pass to Ryan McGrath, who tipped the puck past Mastalerz 16 minutes, 28 seconds into the game.
UML also struck in the second period on a wrist shot by Joseph Pendenza on the power play, which made it 2-0 at the time.
UMass will next be in action next weekend when it plays two home games against Michigan State of the Big Ten.
Cameron McDonough can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @Cam_McDonough.