UMass hockey blown out by UNH without Steve Mastalerz

By Cameron McDonough

After his team was blown out by New Hampshire on Saturday night, Massachusetts hockey coach John Micheletto offered an apology to all in attendance for his team’s performance.

“I’d like to thank the people that stayed til the very end who are UMass fans. I apologize to everybody else in the building,” he said. “That was not indicative of the way that we aspire to play and represent out fans and our university. So there’s a blanket apology for all those people.”

The camouflage-donning Minutemen (3-6-1, 1-3-1 Hockey East) never had much of a chance on Saturday as they lost 9-0 in front of 4,284 at Mullins Center, which completed the two-game sweep by the Wildcats (3-5-1, 2-2 HEA) this weekend.

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

UMass was thrown a curveball before the game due to an unspecified injury that goaltender Steve Mastalerz suffered against UNH in the second period during Friday’s 4-1 loss. Micheletto said that the injury got worse over time and that Mastalaerz spoke with a doctor Saturday night about the injury.

With Mastalerz out that meant that freshman Alex Wakaluk got his second start in net. And everything that could go wrong for him and the defense in front of him did.

Wakaluk allowed five goals on 10 shots in just 22 minutes, 26 seconds before being pulled for another freshman, Mac Haight.

And while he struggled in net as well, Micheletto was more concerned about the play of the other five players on the ice in front of him.

“I’d be more concerned about the play of the five guys in front of him, they certainly didn’t allow either of our goaltenders tonight to have much success when we defended and transitioned the way that we did,” he said. “So I hate to hang that one on either, especially Alex in the early going, but the four that we gave up to Mac when he came in as well.”

The Wildcats’ offensive outburst began right away in the first period with three goals, all of which beat Wakaluk blocker side.

Tyler Kelleher scored the first goal after the initial shot by Brett Pesce at the right point produced a big rebound that got Wakaluk out of position. The puck then went right to the stick of Kelleher who finished from there on a wide-open net a mere 59 seconds in.

The Wildcats then responded with a pair of 2-on-1 opportunities to build up a 3-0 lead in the first frame. UNH then got a pair of 2-on-1 breakaway goals from Maxim Gaudreault and Grayson Downing, who finished with a hat trick. The two goals were nearly identical as the initial pass came from the right point and found the eventual goal scorer skating in close to the crease on Wakaluk’s blocker side.

Although the blocker side goals became a theme for his team, Wildcats coach Dick Umile said it wasn’t something that they were focusing on.

“I think it just happened,” he said. “We’ve had such difficulty scoring, I don’t think anybody was thinking what side it was. I was thinking we were just trying to get it past the goalie. We moved it pretty good on him.”

The blocker side success continued in the second period as Trevor van Riemsdyk unleashed a slap shot from the point for a power play goal and then Kevin Goumas scored off a rebound to make it 5-0.

That’s when Wakaluk was pulled and Haight was inserted into the game. Haight would go on to allow four more goals, but he did come up with 19 saves.

Goalie wasn’t the only position that had a few changes for the Minutemen on Saturday. Most notably, Adam Phillips started at center on the first line and Shane Walsh moved back down to the third line with former first liner Branden Gracel.

After the disappointing loss, Micheletto was asked if it was as tough of a loss as ever, and the coach simply responded, “Yes.”

His team will try to put the loss behind it as they play Boston College beginning on Thursday at Mullins Center.

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