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Monday, August 24, 2015

Pair of second-period goals leads UMass hockey past Maine

The Massachusetts hockey team scored two goals 17 seconds apart in the second period and got 38 saves from goaltender Steve Mastalerz in a 2-1 win over Maine on Saturday night at Mullins Center.

The Minutemen (3-4-1, 1-1-1 Hockey East) were outshot 39-26 by the Black Bears, who had the bulk of the pressure throughout the game, but Mastalerz bailed his team out to give UMass its first Hockey East win of the season.

Nicole Evangelista/Collegian

“He’s just very square to the puck right now, which is an amazing skill to have as a goaltender,” UMass coach John Micheletto said. “He’s got his depth pretty much dead on, in terms of where he needs to be. I’m happy for him. He worked very hard to get here.”

After a first period that Maine (3-3-1, 0-1-1 Hockey East) dominated, the Minutemen came out firing in the second. Eight minutes, four seconds into the period, Michael Pereira drew a tripping penalty and moments later put UMass on top with a power play goal that was assisted by Branden Gracel and Conor Sheary.

Just 17 seconds later, Ray Pigozzi deflected a Colin Shea point shot past Maine goaltender Martin Ouellette to give the Minutemen a 2-0 lead.

Devin Shore scored on a 5-on-3 to put Maine on the board and cut the lead to 2-1 at 6:11 of the third period, but Mastalerz stood strong in the final minutes of the game, making a flurry of saves at the final buzzer to preserve the win.

It was a night that UMass dominated on special teams. The penalty kill was key, stopping six of seven Maine power plays. Mastalerz was the best penalty killer for the Minutemen, but he was helped out by the aggressive play of skaters in front of him.

“I think blocked shots were the main thing.” Mastalerz said. “There were a lot of times I was dropping and shots didn’t get through.”

On the other side of the ice, the Minuteman capitalized on their 13th power play goal in just eight games.

Gracel was moved down from his regular first line center position to the third line before the game and the change seemed to give him a spark. He filled up the stat sheet with three shots, an assist and three blocked shots.

“It’s a little bit about depth and it’s a little bit about trying to jump start Branden.” Micheletto said. “I thought it shook out pretty well for us.”

For Maine, it was a disappointing result to a game that controlled much of the play.

Black Bears goaltender Martin Ouellette played well, making 24 saves on 26 shots, and offensively the Black Bears generated a lot of pressure. However, they simply could not finish on their chances.

“We played hard, really hard,” Maine coach Red Gendron said. “But, we have to get better at finishing off plays. That’s what cost us the game Saturday. We had our chances. We didn’t finish the chances. It’s pretty simple.”

The Minutemen will play a home-and-home against New Hampshire next weekend, starting Friday at 7 p.m. at Whittemore Center.

Ross Gienieczko can be reached at rgieniec@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @RossCollegian.

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