April 24, 2014

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UMass rides four power play goals to victory over Michigan State

It’s been over four years since the Massachusetts hockey team dominated the power play like it did on Saturday night.

UMass struck four times on the man advantage en route to a 5-2 win over Michigan State  in front of 5,280 at Mullins Center.

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

The last time that the Minutemen scored at least four power play goals was against Rensselaer Polytechnic on Oct. 8, 2009, in what was also a 5-2 home win for UMass.

Improving on the power play after a 1-for-5 performance during the Minutemen’s 3-1 win over the Spartans on Friday was a point of emphasis after the game, according to UMass coach John Micheletto, and it paid off on Saturday.

“We talked about it (Friday) night,” he said. “We talked afterwards, particularly about some of the less sexy things about the power play, retrievals is a big focus for us on the power play. Repossessing the puck after you lose possession of it I think is critical.”

Two of the players who made large impacts on the power play were two freshmen, Steven Iacobellis and Ray Pigozzi, who led the Minutemen to victory. Iacobellis tallied two goals, one on the man advantage, and an assist while Pigozzi tacked on three assists for UMass, continuing the strong start for UMass’ second line along with Troy Power.

“Those three guys I think have a great blend of not only skill sets but personalities that seem to mesh very well together,” Micheletto said of his second line.

The Minutemen (2-2) faced a 2-1 deficit entering the second period. But UMass erupted for four goals in the frame, three of which came on the power play.

However, it was the Minutemen’s only non-power play goal in the period that gave them the lead for the first time on the night. Pigozzi had the puck behind the goal and found Iacobellis in the slot for his second goal of the night at 10 minutes, 28 seconds. The freshman now has three goals in four games this season.

Then UMass tacked on a two power play goals, the first of which came on a one-timer from Adam Phillips from the point at 13:34.

Power closed out the scoring in the period when he put home a rebound at 18:57 on an assist from Iacobellis.

UMass’ first man-up goal of the second period, which also tied the game up, came on a one-timer from Joel Hanley from the point just over seven minutes into the frame.

It was a fitting response to a very poor start to the game.

“Well I think the way we started the game, it’s not the way that we want to,” Power said. “I don’t think we came out with a lot of speed. I thought we were pretty flat and that goes for everyone, just not the way that we want to play hockey.”

MSU struck twice in the first period to take a lead into the intermission. Michael Ferrantino got the scoring started for the Spartans (0-2) early when Joe Cox fed him in the slot where Ferrantino blasted one past goalie Steve Mastalerz, who finished with 31 saves.

Then after UMass had tied the game up, Greg Wolfe, who was MSU’s lone goal scorer on Friday night, scored a 5-on-3 power play goal on a one-timer after Colin Shea and Branden Gracel were sent to the box. Travis Walsh was credited with the assist on the goal after he found Wolfe from the opposite end of the blue line.

The Minutemen’s lone goal in the first came off the stick of Iacobellis, who found Power’s initial shot lose in the crease.

Despite the slow start, Micheletto sensed that his team knew that they needed to play better without being told.

“The nice thing is after the first 20 (minutes), I didn’t have to urge our guys too much because they weren’t happy with their own play,” he said. “So I thought we got much, much better in the second period.”

UMass’ next two games will be at Maine next weekend in a pair of non-conference games against their Hockey East foe.

Cameron McDonough can be reached at cameronm@umass.edu and followed on twitter @Cam_McDonough.

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