Minutemen sweep home-and-home with Purple Eagles

By Jeffrey R. Larnard

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With two come-from-behind wins over Niagara over the weekend, the Massachusetts hockey team bounced back after its first loss of the season last weekend to Providence.

Sunday afternoon, the No. 19 Minutemen fell behind 1-0 in the first period at Niagara before pulling out a 4-2 win over the winless Purple Eagles (0-6-1, 0-0-0 College Hockey America). Similarly, UMass (6-1-0, 3-1-0 Hockey East) overcame a 1-0 deficit on Friday in Amherst, before scoring four unanswered goals for a 4-1 win.

“We had to stay with it to come from behind,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said after Sunday’s game. “So there were a lot of positives about it but make no mistake about it we need to get better.”

Seven minutes into the first period, Niagara took a 1-0 lead on an Egor Mironov shot that found its way past the shoulder of UMass goalkeeper Dan Meyes, who made 25 saves in the win. The start for Meyers was his first game after starting off the season with a three-game suspension for an off-the-field incident.

The Minutemen tied the game and took the lead on goals by Michael Marcou and Will Ortiz withing 50 seconds of eachother. Four minutes into the period, Marcou took a pass from Casey Wellman for his second goal of the season. Ortiz gave UMass a 2-1 lead when he took a low shot from the right side of the rink that found its way past Niagara’s Adam Avramenko.

With 10 minutes remaining in the period, the Purple Eagles evened the score at two on Ryan Olidis’ fourth goal of the season.

Wellman broke the tie with five minutes to go in the game with what would be the game-winning goal and his fourth of the season. After a shot by Justin Braun was stopped, Wellman grabbed the rebound and backhanded a shot into the net. James Marcou added the final tally with two minutes remaining.

All four of the Minutemen’s goals came with both teams at full strength, a good sign for UMass. Prior to the game, the Minutemen had scored 23 goals, 12 of which came on the power play.

Friday’s game was highlighted by Michael Lecomte, who played in only his second game of the season and scored twice. After missing all but the first game of the season due to a back injury, but the junior made up for lost time by scoring the game-tying goal in the second period as well as an empty netter that helped put the game away in the closing minutes.

“Two goals first game back … it was really nice, I wasn’t expecting that,” Lecomte said after Friday’s game. “In the first period I was really off, trying to get the speed of the game and trying to find my teammates was hard but to get that goal was a big boost for me.”

Twenty-two seconds into the second period, Olidis put away his third goal of the season past UMass’ Paul Dainton, who made 31 saves in the game, to give the Purple Eagles a 1-0 lead. Play remained back and forth until Lecomte received a pass from a pass in the slot from Ortiz and scored with seven minutes, 33 seconds remained in the second period. Ortiz, who was positioned behind the net, took a pass from Shawn Saunders before feeding Lecomte in front of the net for the tying goal.
    “The guys gave the puck to Will Ortiz, who made a great play and then I just had to put the puck in the net,” Lecomte said of the goal.

The Minutemen took advantage of a power-play opportunity to take a 2-1 lead with 13 seconds left in the second period. UMass got the man advantage with 2:03 left in the period after Danny Hobbs stole the puck and charged through the Purple Eagles zone before being tripped into the goal’s post by Niagara’s David Ross. Hobbs took a pass from Martin Nolet with 10 seconds left on the power play and got redemption by putting the goal away for his first of the season.

Two late empty-net goals in the final 1:30 would give UMass a 4-1 victory. Lecomte would add his second goal of the game – and season – after he stole a Niagara pass and went uncontested to the net. With 11 seconds remaining in the game, David Boehm added the second empty netter off an assist from Nolet.

Jeffrey R. Larnard can be reached at [email protected]