Minutemen avenge woeful break

By Dan Gigliotti

Jeff Bernstein

The Massachusetts hockey team started the New Year with a five-game losing streak over winter break, but bounced back this weekend with a series sweep of UMass Lowell.

Following its first winning streak of the season, the Minutemen (5-11-3, 4-6-3 Hockey East) lost back-to-back games for the first time since Nov. 5, dropping consecutive contests at No. 15 Wisconsin. UMass then lost home games to Northeastern, 5-3, and No. 4 New Hampshire, 3-1.

However, the Minutemen rebounded with a home-and-home sweep against UMass Lowell last weekend.

Last weekend against UMass Lowell

Friday marked the first contest of the home-and-home weekend series between UMass and UMass Lowell in Lowell. The Minutemen won, 5-4, as they used a last-minute goal to win their first road game of the season.

Danny Hobbs scored a goal with 11.6 seconds left in regulation to give UMass its first win in six games. The Minutemen’s previous win also came against the Riverhawks in a 5-2 win at the Mullins Center. on Dec. 4.

While his team did relinquish a two-goal lead, UMass coach Don Cahoon was pleased to come away with a win.

“We found out what happens when two young teams play each other – anything can happen,” Cahoon said. “We’re just happy to come out with one more [goal] than they had.”

The game-winning goal came on a three-on-two rush into the attacking zone as T.J. Syner led Hobbs with a pass over the blue line. Hobbs skated towards the left of the net and attempted to center a pass from the faceoff circle when the puck deflected off a defender’s skate and past River Hawk goalie Doug Carr in goal.

Senior Paul Dainton started in net and made 33 saves as UMass held a 4-1 advantage midway through the second period before UMass Lowell tied the game with two goals in the third.

Although Cahoon was not happy with the way his team gave up a three-goal lead, Cahoon liked the resiliency his team showed and was happy with the result.

“I was really pleased with the way that we came back and took the game over,” Cahoon said. “Was I satisfied? No, but I’ll take the ‘W’ and feel pretty good about it.”

Other UMass goal-scorers included Chase Langeraap, Michael Lecomte, Brendan Gracel and Michael Pereira.

The relieved Minutemen then returned back to the Mullins Center on Saturday, eventually defeating the River Hawks, 4-1, to complete the weekend sweep.

The Minutemen led 4-0 before giving up a goal halfway through the third period to spoil what would have been their first shutout of the season.

Freshman defenseman Adam Phillips had the first multi-goal game of his career with two power play goals to lead UMass to its second victory in seven games. Freshman Colin Shea scored his first career goal while juniors Syner and Hobbs each added two assists for the Minutemen.

Cahoon was pleased with his team’s overall performance and execution.

“I thought we played pretty well in the first and second period when we needed to most, to get the commanding lead,” Cahoon said. “We moved the puck well, we had lots of scoring chances, we executed on the power play and we did a great job of killing penalties, so that’s a big step forward.”

Dainton made 28 saves in net for UMass, as the Minutemen killed six River Hawk penalties in the game.

Just over four minutes into the game, Syner evaded a River Hawk defender and passed the puck to Phillips at the point. Phillips one-timed a slap shot to score his sixth goal of the season.

UMass scored again 34 seconds later, when Conor Sheary took a Michael Lecomte pass and fired it past Carr.

The Minutemen converted two of its three power play chances and now have a 5-5-2 record this season when scoring three or more goals in a game.

“I think our speed factor really showed itself early in the game,” Cahoon said. “We counter-attacked and really created some odd-man situations around the net. We drew penalties that way and I thought that we controlled the tempo more as the game went on.”

Dan Gigliotti can be reached at [email protected]