UMass hockey lets one slip away at Merrimack

By Cameron McDonough

Cade Belisle:Daily Collegian
Cade Belisle/Collegian Staff

NORTH ANDOVER – Saturday night was set up to be a special and historic night for Michael Pereira and the Massachusetts hockey team.

But then the third period happened.

Merrimack struck for two goals in the final frame and won 3-2 against the Minutemen (7-16-3, 3-8-2 Hockey East) at Lawler Arena.

The Warriors’ winning goal came when Hampus Gustafsson found his brother John Gustafsson crashing the net on a 2-on-1 opportunity. John Gustafsson proceeded to deke and score on Steve Mastalerz with a bankhand goal 6:04 into the third period. The goal came after poor pinching by UMass in the neutral zone.

Merrimack (7-13-3, 2-7-2 HEA) tied the game up at 3:53 in the third period after a Minuteman knocked Jonathan Lashyn into Mastalerz (31 saves). Chris LeBlanc then found the loose puck and he finished on a wide-open net as Mastalerz struggled to regain his footing.

“I get that there was contact, but it’s a tough pill to swallow,” UMass coach John Micheletto said of the game-tying goal. “That’s the game-tying goal but as many times as Steve got touched during the course of that game, I would’ve like to have seen that go in a different direction.”

Things were looking up for the Minutemen after Michael Pereira had quite the eventful second period in which he reached 50 career goals and 100 career points.

He helped UMass tie the game at 1-1 when Conor Sheary found him crashing the net hard on Rasmus Tirronen’s (24 saves) blocker side. Pereira finished the power play goal at 2:49, which was the 50th goal of his career. The power play opportunity was created when Kyle Singleton went to the box for goalie interference less than a minute into the period.

But the news wasn’t all positive as Pereira crashed hard into the boards after the goal and had to be helped off the ice by Troy Power and a trainer. He returned to the ice a few shifts later, though.

“The air is kind of sucked out of your sails a little bit when you’re not even able to celebrate that moment with him and he goes off,” Micheletto said. “Obviously he’s not in a comfortable spot. He’s not injured but when your bones get jarred like they did going into the boards at that speed, for him to come back and give us as many quality minutes as he did is a huge testament to his desire to win.”

Pereira didn’t seem to lose a step as he scored his second goal of the game and period at the 18:05 mark when he deflected in a puck that Ben Gallacher put on net from between the goal line and left circle. The goal was also on the power play, this time after Lashyn was called for tripping. This was also a historic goal for Pereira as it was the 100th point of his career. He is only the fifth player to have 50 goals and 100 points in UMass history.

“He had a great jump tonight,” Micheletto said. “Obviously Michael not only displays unbelievable speed, but he’s got such great spirit for our team. Our guys are so fond of him, for him to get his 50th goal and 100th career point.”

Merrimack got on the board first when Vinny Scotti won a face-off at the right circle and found Lashyn, who let one rip from the point to beat Mastalerz high blocker side at the 4:32 mark in the first.

After scoring five goals the previous night, the Minutemen failed to muster much of an offensive attack in the first frame. The Warriors outshot UMass 13-4 in the first with the most notable scoring chances coming from a Sheary rush and a Gallacher shot from the point while his team was on the penalty kill.

The Minutemen will try to rebound next Friday when they host Boston University at 7:30 in front of a national audience on NBC Sports Network.

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