UMass hockey rallies in third period to tie BU

By Nick Canelas

Taylor C. Snow/Daily Collegian
Taylor C. Snow/Daily Collegian

If the Massachusetts hockey team was to make a film documenting its 2013-14 season, the first 59 minutes, nine seconds of Friday’s game versus Boston University would’ve made for a perfect script.

The Minutemen came out with unmatched energy, heavily outshot its opponent and got a majority of the chances, but costly turnovers and an inability to finish had UMass on its way to yet another disappointing loss.

But there’s a reason Ray Pigozzi was on the ice.

The forward is an essential piece to UMass coach John Micheletto’s first freshman class, one the team hopes will finally change the culture of the program from likable losers to regular winners.

Pigozzi couldn’t get the Minutemen a win, but he snatched victory right out of the paws of the Terriers when he tipped in an Adam Phillips shot with 50.9 seconds left in regulation to complete a two-goal comeback in the third period and earn an improbable 3-3 tie in front of 6,018 at Mullins Center.

UMass (7-16-4, 3-8-3 Hockey East) outshot BU 49-22 and had numerous grade-A chances that were robbed by Terriers goaltender Matt O’Connor (46 saves), but still needed third-period goals from Conor Sheary and Pigozzi to rally from a 3-1 deficit and pick up a much-needed Hockey East point.

“It’s definitely frustrating going through the game when you think you should be up, or you had more chances than the other team,” Pigozzi said. “So to come back with a minute left and put it in the net – it’s a good feeling to know you’re not leaving the barn with nothing.

“It was nice to send it into overtime,” he continued. “I thought we could’ve won it in the last 50 seconds, but it was exciting for the team and we’re just happy to get a point out of it.”

Goals by BU’s Cason Hohmann and UMass’ Branden Gracel made it a 1-1 game after the first period despite a 22-8 Minutemen shot advantage.

BU regained the lead 7:44 into the second period when Ahti Oksanen rifled a shot past UMass goaltender Steve Mastalerz (19 saves) from the slot on a one-timer. Hohmann led a 2-on-1 break off a defensive zone turnover. With Mike Busillo occupying the forwards, Hohmann fed the puck to a trailing Oksanen, who stepped into it at a highway speed to put the Terriers up 2-1.

BU (8-14-3, 3-8-2 HEA) doubled its advantage 4:02 into the third period when Mike Moran beat Mastalerz with a point-blank snap shot that found the top right corner of the net.

But that’s when UMass turned to its leaders. Co-captains Sheary and Troy Power thought the Minutemen had more energy despite what the scoreboard read, and let it be known to their teammates.

“Me and Troy I thought did a good job of not letting anybody get down,” Sheary said. “We had the momentum even though they were up 3-1 and we were playing in their zone most of the game.

“The message was, ‘Keep going, and our opportunities are gonna keep coming and we’re just gonna have to bear down and bury one.’”

Sheary held true to his message at 12:55 when he scored his fifth goal of the season and 98th career point to cut the deficit in half.

That set up Pigozzi for his heroics with the extra-attacker. Phillips carried the puck up by the left point, fired and the freshman got enough of it to beat O’Connor, leaping into the arms of his teammates in celebration.

“It’s a disappointing way to lose,” BU coach David Quinn said before having to correct himself and call it a tie.

UMass was happy with the point, but in a contest that had 15 combined penalties and constant swings in momentum, the Minutemen still felt it was a missed opportunity for a win given their 82 total launches to the Terriers’ 46.

“There’s not a lot of overflowing positive emotion that it was a win,” Micheletto said. “We were glad to get the point, certainly, because points are valuable at this time. … We feel great about the process, but we wanna make sure that the product and the process match up.”

But for the few fans who stayed, it was jubilation, and maybe even coming out party for an important part of UMass’ future.

Nick Canelas can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @NickCanelas.