The Massachusetts hockey team experienced near identical results in its two games this past weekend when it traveled to the Twin City of Minneapolis.
UMass lost on Friday, 5-3, and on Saturday, 5-4, to No. 15 Minnesota, but not before a serious scare.
UMass coach Don Cahoon was pleased with the character that his players showed, but he has high hopes for his team, even if no one else has similar expectations.
“As a coach, the bottom line is winning, so there’s a bitter taste to all of this,” Cahoon said. “We competed really hard, we showed resiliency [and] we definitely persevered serious struggles. Those are the positives that build a foundation, but that’s not where we need to be. As a coach, we’re going to get there as soon as we possibly can.”
The Minutemen faced a 3-0 deficit in the opening frame of Saturday’s game, their goalie and captain Paul Dainton left the ice with an injury. After battling to narrow the deficit, T.J. Syner netted a goal to cut the Gopher lead to one with an open net and under two minutes in regulation.
The power play units of both teams became the difference in the game as the Gophers went 2-for-3, while the Minutemen misfired on five opportunities.
“We had all sorts of power play opportunities… we just have to bury [them],” Cahoon said. “I wasn’t disappointed with the way our power play moved the puck, we had some real good looks.”
UMass held a 36-33 shot advantage in the game, after being out-shot, 17-7, in the first period.
Defenseman Anthony Raiola, a Minnesota native, netted his first career goal to begin the Minutemen rally. Conor Sheary and Michael Marcou also found goal on Saturday, unable to overcome a first period hat trick by Minnesota’s Jay Barriball.
Dainton left the game in the first period after making 10 saves and Cahoon said he is day-to-day.
UMass converted on 2-of-6 opportunities with a man-advantage on Friday, but failed to capitalize on two chances in the first period to take the lead, including a five-minute power-play.
Bariball gave the Gophers a 1-0 lead at the end of the first period, followed by a second goal by Mike Hoeffel 12 seconds into the second period.
The two teams traded goals into the third period, when Syner connected on a breakaway goal off of a pass from Michael Pereira in transition to make it 4-3 Minnesota. Then, Zach Budish scored on an empty net with under a minute in regulation to ice the game.
Syner had two goals on the weekend and six other UMass players netted their first goals of the season.
Marcou had three points in the two games, assisting on a score in each of the Minutemen losses.
Despite the loss, Cahoon saw a lot of promise in his team’s ability to play from behind.
“I was pleased with the way we responded to the adversity of being down three goals,” Cahoon said. “I don’t like the idea that we were down three. There’s a lot to work on.”
Dan Gigliotti can be reached at [email protected]