Scrolling Headlines:

UMass women’s basketball suffers disappointing loss to St. Bonaventure at Mullins Center Thursday -

January 19, 2017

REPORT: Tom Masella out as defensive coordinator for UMass football -

January 19, 2017

Zach Lewis, bench carry UMass men’s basketball in win over St. Joe’s -

January 19, 2017

UMass women’s basketball handles Duquesne at home -

January 16, 2017

UMass men’s basketball’s late comeback falls short after blowing 15-point first-half lead -

January 15, 2017

UMass hockey outlasted at home against No. 6 UMass Lowell -

January 14, 2017

Hailey Leidel hits second buzzer beater of the season to give UMass women’s basketball win over Davidson -

January 13, 2017

UMass football hosts Maine at Fenway Park in 2017 -

January 12, 2017

UMass men’s basketball snaps losing streak and upsets Dayton Wednesday night at Mullins Center -

January 11, 2017

UMass women’s track and field takes second at Dartmouth Relays -

January 10, 2017

UMass hockey falls to No. 5 Boston University at Frozen Fenway -

January 8, 2017

UMass professor to make third appearance on ‘Jeopardy!’ -

January 8, 2017

UMass women’s basketball suffers brutal loss on road against Saint Joseph’s -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops thirds straight, falls to VCU 81-64 -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops tightly-contested conference matchup against George Mason Wednesday night -

January 4, 2017

Late-game defense preserves UMass women’s basketball’s win against rival Rhode Island -

January 4, 2017

AIC shuts out UMass hockey 3-0 at Mullins Center -

January 4, 2017

UMass professor to appear as contestant on ‘Jeopardy!’ Thursday night -

January 4, 2017

Penalties plague UMass hockey in Mariucci Classic championship game -

January 2, 2017

UMass men’s basketball falls in A-10 opener to St. Bonaventure and its veteran backcourt -

December 30, 2016

Freshman Ray Pigozzi brought in to give UMass a winning formula

Taylor Snow/Daily Collegian

Taylor Snow/Daily Collegian

Winning seasons don’t come around regularly for the Massachusetts hockey team.

Since its resurrection in 1993, the program has finished with a winning record just four times—highlighted by a trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2007—and has never reached a Frozen Four or won a Hockey East championship.

This season has been no different. The Minutemen are tied for eighth place in the Hockey East standings, and at 7-16-4 have already clinched another losing season with just six games left.

Only in his second year behind the bench, UMass coach John Micheletto is aware of the program’s forgettable history. The only way to change it is through recruiting.

Bringing in talent helps. But what may be undervalued is the importance of recruiting players with a winning history, something Micheletto emphasized with his first freshman class.

Players such as Steven Iacobellis and Ray Pigozzi fit that mold, having won at both the junior and midget level, and have been key contributors for the Minutemen as first-year players this season.

Their familiarity with triumph could be an even bigger factor with UMass in the midst of a playoff push.

“They’re used to making pushes at the end of the year,” Micheletto said. “Young guys that have no history like some of the returning guys do, that’s always valuable down the stretch to maybe change the energy around this time.”

Pigozzi backed up his coach’s sentiment on Friday night, scoring a game-tying goal with 50.9 seconds left in regulation to lead the Minutemen to a 3-3 tie with Boston University after trailing 3-1 midway through the period.

A former Denver commit, Pigozzi has brought a unique element to UMass’ fast-paced, aggressive system this season. He’s a pass-first player with good vision and the ability to slow the game down, and his numbers can back up those traits.

The Evanston, Ill., native is fourth on the team with 11 assists and is tied for fifth in scoring with 15 points. He’s also boosted the Minutemen with a position change.

Pigozzi played center for the first time in his career on Dec. 30 and hasn’t moved since. Micheletto said that Pigozzi’s ability to distribute the puck made him more valuable in the middle than on the wing and has forced him to be more aggressive as a shooter as well as a passer.

“It’s definitely different,” said Pigozzi, who centers Michael Pereira and Troy Power on UMass’ unofficial second line. “It’s a completely different position and I haven’t played it at all in my life. I’ll do whatever the team needs.

“I got in there, our lines been playing pretty well and I’m starting to get more comfortable there, so it’s good.”

Although Pigozzi has scored just four goals this season, and only scored eight in 53 games with the USHL’s Chicago Steel last season, Micheletto still thinks he could be an efficient goal-scorer as well as an exceptional game-manager with the puck on his stick.

Pigozzi, however, isn’t too concerned about his scoring numbers.

“I always found myself to be more of a playmaker,” he said. “It’s always a good feeling to score. It’s not the end of the world if I don’t, personally, but it definitely feels good.

“I try to do both as much as possible,” he added. “But throughout my days of playing, I feel that’s been my strong suit is setting other guys up for their roles.”

Pigozzi’s role has made it easy for him to fly under the radar despite such a productive rookie season. While it’s not the most enjoyable of circumstances, it may have its benefits.

Opposing coaches are more apt to center their game plans around UMass’ known goal-scorers such as Conor Sheary, Pereira and Iacobellis, leaving Pigozzi free to surprise his opponents.

“I think him being a freshman as well and playing with guys on either wing in Mike Pereira and Troy Power, who are known commodities, people may pay a little bit more attention to them and might look off Ray a little bit, where hopefully that comes back to bite them in the rear end,” Micheletto said.

In the end, that means a better chance to win.

Nick Canelas can be reached at ncanelas@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @NickCanelas.

Leave A Comment