UMass hockey uses a little luck to complete weekend sweep of Colgate
The Massachusetts hockey team had its share of ugly losses during its eight-game winless streak, but the Minutemen also felt they were often on the wrong side of luck in that stretch.
It started with offsidesgate against Boston College Nov. 14 at Mullins Center, and then defeats at Vermont and Notre Dame in which UMass significantly outshot its opponent, but struggled to find the back of the net.
On Sunday, it was the Minutemen who had the right things go their way.
UMass was outshot 35-22 and took nine penalties, but a fluke shorthanded goal in the first period was the difference in its 3-2 win over Colgate at Starr Rink for its third straight win.
The Minutemen were in the early stages of killing off a Raiders power play when Steven Iacobellis cleared the zone and headed back to the bench for a line change. Seconds later, he was credited with his seventh goal of the season.
The puck was played by Colgate in its defensive zone with Conor Sheary coming in on the forecheck. A misplayed exchange between Spiro Goulakos and Kyle Baun turned into a tipped puck that caught goaltender Eric Mihalik by surprise and it ended up in the back of the net to give UMass the 1-0 advantage 11 minutes, nine seconds into the contest.
“I still haven’t seen it. I don’t even know how it went in,” Iacobellis said. “I went to the bench and somehow I got credit for it. I’ll have to give some thanks to the hockey gods for that one.
“I think everyone gets their break like that once in a while,” he added. “Hopefully I can get another one here but I might be all out of luck with that.”
For UMass coach John Micheletto, it was a break he felt his team was long overdue for.
“We’ll take that,” Micheletto said. “We certainly didn’t have a lot of puck luck over the month of November, so hopefully we’re gonna catch up to that.
“It makes everybody crack a smile on the bench and feel a little bit lighter. … The opposite happens when it doesn’t go your way. It can be very deflating.”
The goal was one of two on Sunday for the freshman Iacobellis, who also scored the eventual game-winner on a power play 11:23 into the third period on a one-timer while crashing toward the net off a feed by Adam Phillips.
With his performance on Sunday, Iacobellis jumped Branden Gracel for the Minutemen’s team-lead in goals with eight for the season, something he didn’t expect to be doing halfway through his rookie year. It’s also a sign of Micheletto’s efforts recruiting his own players to the program coming to fruition.
“It’s something you hope to have, but you never really expect it,” Iacobellis said of his production. “Some of my goals I haven’t had to do absolutely anything. I’ve just been put in the right spot and I’ve been lucky enough and fortunate enough that I’ve been playing with some really good guys that have been able to make some unbelievable passes and plays.”
The Minutemen (6-11-2) extended their advantage to 2-0 47 seconds into the second period on a power-play goal by Michael Pereira on a pass by Shane Walsh. But Colgate (7-9-2) cut its deficit to 2-1 on a goal by Mike Borkowski.
After Iacobellis’ third-period goal, Borkowski answered less than three minutes later for his second goal of the afternoon. But that’s all the Raiders could get past goaltender Steve Mastalerz, who made 33 saves and helped kill off all nine Colgate power plays.
The three-game winning streak is UMass’ longest of the season. It was also the Minutemen’s second weekend sweep of the season. Micheletto said after the game that the key to UMass’ recent success has been a combination of improved defensive play and a little bit of luck, both of which were on full display on Sunday.
“I’ve liked us an awful lot at times when we didn’t come away with a win, so I think over this last little stretch things have probably fallen in line with how happy I was with the team,” Micheletto said. “I think on most nights we’ve been a good representation of what I thought we could do and now we’re just getting the results that go along with it.”
The Minutemen return to Mullins Center on Tuesday for a 7 p.m. matchup with Denver before the 10-day holiday break.
Nick Canelas can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @NickCanelas.