UMass hockey blows another late lead, still learning to close games

By Cameron McDonough

Maria Uminski/Collegian

It may have been a different weekend, but it was the same story for the Massachusetts hockey team as it failed to close out yet another game at home.

This time, the Minutemen blew a 2-0 lead to Boston University on Saturday night and eventually fell, 3-2, to the Terriers at the Mullins Center.

The loss comes a week after UMass blew a 3-0 lead at home against Boston College as the team conceded four goals in the third period and the eventual game-winner in overtime.

Learning how to play with a sizable lead is something that the Minutemen are still trying to learn and senior captain Rocco Carzo attributes a lot of that to the mental part of hockey.

“I mean obviously after we scored two goals, guys started to pull up a bit,” Carzo said. “All of us saw it. That’s when they took it to us. So I mean it’s all mental at this point. We’re all in shape, we’re all skilled, but it’s just the mental part at this point.”

While fatigue played a key role in UMass’ loss to BC, it didn’t seem to faze the Minutemen on Saturday.

UMass outshot BU, 20-9, in the third period and were constantly on the attack. But, the Minutemen were unable to produce a goal from their quality scoring chances.

That left the window open for a late goal by Terriers forward Sahir Gill with only 1:42 left in the game, which put BU up for good.

While UMass controlled the pace of play for the majority of the third period, it was the opposite in the second. The Terriers outshot the Minutemen, 17-7, in the frame.

UMass did get on the board first in the second on a penalty shot by Carzo just over a minute into the period. But after that, BU dominated the period with two goals of its own by Wade Megan and Matt Nieto, which tied the game up at two heading into the final period.

“In the second period, we certainly had the game taken to us,” UMass coach John Micheletto said. “Fortunately we were able to reign the game back into our liking in the third, but we obviously came up a little short there in the end.”

Lines in flux

Micheletto made some key switches in UMass’ lineups for Saturday’s game against the Terriers.

First, he went with Kevin Boyle in net after starting Steve Mastalerz on Friday at BU.

Boyle answered the call with a solid performance, making 32 saves, which pleased Micheletto.

“I thought our goaltending was very strong tonight,” Micheletto said. “I thought Kevin gave us an opportunity to win. I was excited for him to have that opportunity and to perform so well. I wish the result was better for him.”

Other notable changes included two new starters on the first line, which included Branden Gracel getting the start at center and Shane Walsh at right wing.

Walsh stood out with his performance on Saturday, scoring the first goal of his career in the first period, which gave the Minutemen an early 1-0 lead at the time.

Micheletto said Walsh has impressed him during practice and that carried over into the games this weekend.

“He had a real good weekend,” Micheletto said. “He’s impressed me in practice throughout the course of the last two weeks. This week I think he’s just starting to feel a little more comfortable. His play last night was energetic, he generated a lot of shots, created a lot of opportunities and I think he was good on the defensive side of it. So, when we were looking for opportunities tonight, we thought it would be a good spot to try to catch lightning in a bottle with him on the weekend and I thought he produced very well for us tonight.”

As for the other two usual starters on the first line, Conor Sheary was moved to the second line Saturday night and Troy Power did not play.

Cameron McDonough can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_McDonough.