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UMass hockey splits season-opening series against Arizona State

(Caroline O’Connor/ Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts hockey team beat Arizona State 4-2 Saturday night in Tempe, Arizona to earn its first win of the 2017-18 season

Freshman forward John Leonard scored the game-winner for UMass (1-1) at 9:02 of the third period following a nifty deke around a Sun Devils (1-1) defender, to give the Minutemen a 3-2 lead.

“It obviously felt really good,” Leonard said. “[Niko] Rufo made a really nice pass and I just found an opening.”

A late ASU powerplay nearly spoiled UMass’ night, but the combination of stout goaltending from Matt Murray – making his first collegiate start – and Niko Rufo’s empty netter with 49 seconds left in the game, was enough to prevail past a hungry Sun Devils squad.

“I’m proud of the way the guys played tonight,” coach Greg Carvel said. “We challenged them tonight and I thought they played really well.

“He has the ability to be a power-forward that can score goals,” Carvel said of Leonard. “He played extremely well tonight. He’s one of our most gifted goal scorers.”

The Minutemen penalty-kill was perfect through 60 minutes, thwarting all four powerplay tries for ASU, with their biggest stop coming with under four minutes remaining in regulation on a six-on-four man-advantage for the Sun Devils.

“I thought [the penalty-kill] was really good all weekend,” Carvel said. “We were taking too many penalties, but I thought it was a real high point for us.”

Murray (15 saves) looked calm all night for UMass and his play was key in the Minutemen’s effort to secure the win.

“I really liked what I saw from him,” said Carvel. “He’s a really quiet goalie, lets pucks hit him and for his first career game I thought he played very, very well.”

UMass recorded the first goal of the game six minutes, 30 seconds into the first period when freshman Jake Gaudet banged in a rebound off senior Jake Horton’s initial shot to put the Minutemen up 1-0 early over ASU. Freshman Oliver Chau held the secondary assist on Gaudet’s first career goal.

The Sun Devils didn’t let UMass get too comfortable as Johnny Walker responded with a goal of his own one minute, nine seconds later, tying it right back up at 1-1.

In the second stanza, sophomore Griff Jeszka earned his first of the season, capitalizing on a nice dish from junior Brett Boeing, making it 2-1 Minutemen at 7:59.

Anthony Croston’s bad angle goal tied it up at 2-2 for the Sun Devils, with a little under eight minutes left in the middle period.

UMass kept ASU in check for the final 20 minutes and scored the final two goals to seal the victory and earn a hard-fought two points in the desert.

“We have to keep playing as a team, playing hard and fast, and I think we showed we can be really dangerous when we do that,” Leonard said.

Late goals sink minutemen in game one Friday

With the score knotted 1-1 late in the second period, the Sun Devils pocketed two goals in the last 1:45 of action to go ahead 3-1 before the intermission.

Brinson Pasichnuk and Louie Rowe were the beneficiaries, giving ASU a two-goal cushion for its biggest lead of the night.

The Sun Devils tallied the next goal, this one off the stick of Joey Raats at 13:57 of the third period, to push ASU’s lead to 4-1.

UMass refused to quit however as two markers from freshman Marco Bozzo and sophomore Jake McLaughlin brought the score to within one at 4-3, and allowed the Minutemen a chance to steal a victory in the desert.

With 18 seconds left in regulation though, Dylan Hollman scored on an empty UMass net to make it 5-3, and secure the Sun Devils’ first win of the year.

Freshman Mitchell Chaffee was the other goal scorer for the Minutemen, recording his first collegiate goal at 13:49 of the first period to tie the game at 1-1.

Ryan Wischow got the start in between the pipes for UMass and made 25 saves in the defeat.

Fifteen penalties were called in the contest, with the Minutemen being assessed nine of the 15 in the loss.

Ryan Ames can be reached at rames@umass.edu or on Twitter @_RyanAmes.

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