UMass falls to Quinnipiac in shootout at UConn Hockey Classic

By Cameron McDonough

It’s only been a month since the Massachusetts hockey team got thumped by Quinnipiac 6-1, but clearly a lot has changed for the Minutemen since then.

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

This time, UMass officially earned a 2-2 tie against the No. 8 Bobcats on Sunday evening in the first game of the UConn Hockey Classic, but lost 2-0 in a shootout to determine which team would advance to the finals Monday night.

The Minutemen will instead settle for the consolation game against Connecticut, which lost to Sacred Heart 3-0 in the second game, at 4:05 p.m.

The Minutemen (6-12-3) are 3-2-1 since they lost to QU 6-1 on Nov. 30, which included a three-game road winning streak in early December.

A big reason why UMass lost by such a decisive margin the first time it played the Bobcats was due to only getting 10 shots on net. The Minutemen improved that mark to 21 the second time around despite still allowing 38 shots on net for QU (13-3-4).

Despite the visible improvements, UMass coach John Micheletto wasn’t happy with just the tie.

“Our goal coming into this weekend was win a championship and obviously that’s not gonna happen now,” he said. “So we need to obviously refocus and build off the good things we did today and try to come back tomorrow afternoon with a focus on energy.”

The game went into overtime after a scoreless third period from both teams. Once they were in overtime, the Bobcats appeared to have won the game, but a potential goal was waved off due to a high stick.

QU converted its first two shootout attempts off the sticks of Jordan Samuels-Thomas and Sam Anas. That gave the Minutemen little room for error, and they missed both of their opportunities.

Micheletto said that his team was left with a sour taste in their mouths mostly due to missed opportunities during regulation rather than losing in a shootout.

And once they hit the shootout, it was anyone’s game.

“The shootout is always gonna be, you never know what’s gonna happen,” Micheletto said.

UMass was the superior team toward the end of the first period as it held a 2-1 lead at the end of the frame. But the Bobcats’ Tim Clifton struck with the crucial equalizer when he scored on a wraparound early in the second period.

QU opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal by Kellen Jones 1:30 into the game.

The Minutemen answered right back with goals from Emerson Auvenshine and Troy Power to take the lead after the first period. Auvenshine’s goal was the first of his career.

“It gave the bench a big boost, they were all excited for Emerson to get his first goal,” Micheletto said.

Micheletto was pleased with the play of Auvenshine’s line throughout the game as other lines weren’t stepping up initially.

“That line was good for us all night,” Micheletto said. “I think other guys had to find their game coming back from vacation, but those guys played a simple game and they used their speed and aggressiveness in the forecheck to their advantage.”

The second line came through once again with 12 seconds remaining in the first period when Ray Pigozzi and Steven Iacobellis fed Power for his goal.

Steve Mastalerz came up with multiple important saves throughout the night en route to 36 stops. Eleven of those saves came during the second period when Micheletto felt like QU had a clear upperhand in shots.

“The second period in terms of the shots it was a little bit tilted,” Micheletto said. “It went back and forth, but we just we turned away too many shot on net opportunities. So that was where the shot total got kind of lopsided. But I don’t think it’s a real indication of the way that the play went.”

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