The Massachusetts hockey team may have picked up its first Hockey East point of the season on Friday night, but one wouldn’t know it based on UMass coach John Micheletto’s demeanor at the start of his postgame press conference.
Micheletto was clearly frustrated following his team’s 1-1 tie with Maine (3-2-1, 0-0-1 Hockey East) in front of 4,261 at Mullins Center, and it was one decision by the officials at the end of regulation that left the second-year coach displeased.
The Black Bears were on the attack with 45.1 seconds left in the third period led by the top forward line of Connor Leen, Devin Shore and Ryan Lomberg. As UMass (2-4-1, 0-1-1 HEA) goaltender Steve Mastalerz went to play a loose puck, he was bumped into by Lomberg and knocked out of position.
This left the puck free in front of the net for Shore, who beat Mastalerz for what appeared to be the go-ahead goal. While Maine was celebrating, the UMass bench was irate, prompting the officials to review the play.
The goal was eventually waved off. But Micheletto felt there was a goaltender interference penalty that was left uncalled in that sequence.
“There was a penalty that wasn’t called that led to Steve being interfered with, which was the reason the goal was disallowed,” Micheletto said.
Mastalerz was run into yet again. This time it was by Leen with 17 seconds left. This one was called, which Micheletto was happy about, saying, “Glad they got the next time our goaltender got hit and I hope our goaltender, every time he gets hit, there should be a penalty call, because it happens far too much.”
When asked if the officials explained to him why the penalty wasn’t called the first time around, Micheletto said, “I will take the blame that I was not in much of a listening mode at that point. I wasn’t looking for an explanation.”
Mastalerz, on the other, was too concerned with playing the puck and avoiding getting hit on the wrist by the skate of Lomberg to see what happened.
“All I saw was the puck by my feet and I was trying to cover it up at some point and I saw a skate coming in,” Mastalerz said. “I saw a skate come in and hit my wrist and I was scared a little because all I saw was the blade and I wasn’t sure if it cut me, but it ended up catching the pad, which is the good part.
“Besides that I just grabbed my wrist. I didn’t really see what happened after that.”
That was just the kind of night it was for Mastalerz, who dealt with plenty of traffic from the Black Bears forwards in front of the net. Maine’s aggressiveness in front of the net is part of its style of play, according to first-year coach Red Gendron, which ultimately led to Mastalerz taking a pair of hits in his crease.
The junior goaltender didn’t have a problem with the Black Bears’ style of play, however.
“It happens,” Mastalerz said. “It’s not the first time it’s happened to me, but their team, they throw everything at the net, try to bang home rebounds, so that’s one thing we knew coming in. We could expect that from the start. It wasn’t anything I was surprised about, but it wasn’t dirty by any means or anything like that.”
Mastalerz spent the night locked in a goaltending battle with Maine goalie Martin Ouellette, who was a former teammate of his at Kimball Union Academy.
Both goalies played well enough to win – Ouellette made 31 saves and Mastalerz made 26 – using their big bodies and making a number of pad saves throughout the night, as well as fighting off eight and 10 penalty minutes, respectively.
It was a matchup the two had been looking forward to all summer. And after coming in the same class as one another at Kimball Union under now UMass assistant coach Ryan Miller, the two had been used to competing with one another regularly, so this game was nothing new.
“We were talking about it all summer,” Mastalerz said. “We were pretty good friends at KUA. We had good relationship on and off the ice so it’s definitely a lot of fun, these games for us, and it looks great for our school.
“We went in the same class,” he added. “We were battling it out every single day. We had a good, healthy, fun relationship battling against each other. We used to get kicked off the ice at every practice when ice time was up, so it was fun.”
After a scoreless first period that ended with the Black Bears at a 10-3 shot advantage, Ben Hutton broke the scoreless tie three minutes, 35 seconds into the second period on a power play goal off a slick pass from Shore.
Shore possessed the puck in the right circle and hit a streaking Hutton with a pinpont pass in the left circle. The sophomore defenseman finished with the forehand to beat Mastalerz and give the Black Bears the 1-0 lead.
Conor Sheary leveled the score at 1-1 at 17:28 with some creativity of his own, using a deke on a pair of Maine defenseman to create space in the left circle and beat Ouellette with a snap shot. Ben Gallacher got his fourth assist of the season on the play while Marc Hetnik got his first-career point with an assist of his own.
The two teams meet again on Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Mullins Center.
Nick Canelas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @NickCanelas.