March 6, 2015

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UMass hockey wins second straight with road victory against Colgate

It took over a month for the Massachusetts hockey team to find its way back into the win column with a victory at Notre Dame last weekend. Instead of waiting that long again, the Minutemen came back a week later to make it two wins in a row.

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

Behind a 25-save effort from junior goaltender Steve Mastalerz, UMass topped Colgate 2-0 in front of 1,276 at Starr Rink in Hamilton, N.Y., for its first shutout win of the season. It’s only the second time the Minutemen (5-11-2) have won consecutive games this season, but it’s something that has the team feeling confident once again.

“Every team struggles, they have the good, the bad and the ugly,” Mastalerz said. “We went through it early. You just have to go back to the basics whatever that may be – one good practice, one good game and build off of that.”

Mastalerz and the entire defense was key throughout Saturday afternoon’s contest. UMass pressured the Raiders the entire game, minimizing their opportunities in the offensive zone. Minutemen coach John Micheletto said that his forwards also deserved credit as they effectively forechecked Colgate (7-8-2) throughout the game.

Mastalerz also credited his team’s gap control in front of him as a reason for UMass’ success on defense. The gap control made it so that the Raiders couldn’t find open lanes to the net.

And whenever they did find a clear path to the net, Mastalerz was there to make the stop.

“It doesn’t matter how many I get, I’m just waiting for that next shot,” Mastalerz said.

“That’s my mindset before, during and after games.”

One of the biggest moments for the defense came during the first period when Colgate went on a 5-on-3 power play. But the Minutemen proved up to the challenge as they managed to kill off the penalty, including when it was downgraded to a 4-on-3 advantage for the Raiders after a two many men on the ice penalty on the home team.

The UMass offense finally broke the scoreless draw later in the first period when co-captain Conor Sheary banged home a loose puck right in front of the net for what turned out to be the game winner. Linemates Michael Pereira and Branden Gracel assisted on the goal with 1:23 left in the first period.

Sheary’s goal closed out an impressive first period for the Minutemen.

“The 5-on-3, to kill that off that’s definitely big for the team,” Mastalerz said. “To be able to do that, that was nice, then to get the goal after that. That was a good first period all the way.”

After a scoreless second frame, Troy Power increased the Minutemen’s lead to two goals when he swatted a puck in midair past Colgate goalie Charlie Finn (38 saves) high blocker side. Joel Hanley assisted the goal when he passed the puck from the right point to a cutting Power. A Raiders defenseman was there to deflect the puck, but instead of deflecting it away from Power it elevated and went right at him. Power maintained control of his stick and put the puck in the back of the net with 16:04 left in the game.

With the win the Minutemen have matched their longest win-streak of the season, with the first streak coming back on Oct. 18 and 19 at home against Michigan State. The latest streak came at an important time as the Minutemen were on an eight-game winless stretch that spanned from Nov. 8 against New Hampshire to Dec. 6 against Notre Dame.

“It’s good to get two in a row,” Mastalerz said.

“I got a shutout too, which is always nice to have. But the big part is that we got the win.”

The Minutemen will try to make it three in a row and a weekend sweep at Colgate on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.

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

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