UMass hockey loses to Providence on Senior Night

By Cameron McDonough

Nicole Evangelsita/Daily Collegian
Nicole Evangelsita/Daily Collegian

Saturday night was more than just a hockey game for the Massachusetts hockey team. It was a chance for the program and its fans to honor the team’s nine seniors one last time.

And that’s exactly what happened as a video tribute was played and the family members of each senior came onto the ice to hug their sons.

As one can imagine, this was an emotional moment.

“At the beginning of the game there was a lot of emotions, seeing your family and friends out there and the people who put you through everything and got you to where you are today,” senior co-captain Conor Sheary said.

It was also an unusual situation for the players.

“It’s funny, my mom comes up to me and said, ‘Good luck today.’ And it’s like ‘wait, you’re on the ice right now?’ So it was a little weird,” senior Michael Pereira said.

But then they had to shove those emotions to the side and play a hockey game. As for how that went, the Minutemen (8-21-4, 4-13-3 Hockey East) lost 2-1 to No. 12 Providence College in front of 4,217 fans on Senior Night at Mullins Center.

Providence (17-9-6, 9-7-2 HEA) followed up its strong start during its 4-3 win over UMass on Friday night with another quick strike on a goal from Noel Acciari five minutes, 59 seconds into the game. Acciari’s shot came from the slot and it beat Steve Mastalerz (23 saves) five-hole. Brandon Tanev was credited with the assist on the goal.

The Friars added to their lead on a one-timer from Mark Jankowski on Mastalerz’ blocker side at the 5:06 mark of the second period. Stefan Demopoulos set up the goal with a cross-crease pass, which left a wide-open net for Jankowski to score on.

“I didn’t think it was particularly crisp in either direction,” UMass coach John Micheletto said of the play early on. “I think their game plan to chip out and chip in and just kind of take the wind out of the game a little bit early was effective.”

UMass attempted a third-period comeback beginning with a goal from Colin Shea with 10:58 remaining. He let one rip from near the right circle that beat Gillies high blocker side. Evan Stack and Patrick Kiley each were credited with assists.

The Minutemen were inches away from tying up the game on a shot from Ben Gallacher from the left circle, but the puck got a piece of goaltender Jon Gillies and ricocheted down to the other end of the ice.

Troy Power, who returned for Friday’s game after sitting out with a left knee injury, had to be helped off the ice late in the third period after an apparent injury. He wasn’t putting any pressure on his left leg as two UMass trainers helped him off. Micheletto said the situation was similar to his last injury and that the two weeks off before the playoffs will certainly help him.

The Minutemen then suffered a costly too many men on the ice penalty with only 2:24 remaining, which significantly hurt any chance at a full comeback.

While this was the last game UMass will play at home this season, it still is guaranteed at least one more game in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs. The Minutemen will either travel to Vermont or Notre Dame for that first round game depending on what happens next weekend.

But that is still two weeks away. In the meantime the team will take the opportunity to rest up and the seniors will try and make one last push at a Hockey East crown.

But no matter what happens, there is no question in their coach’s eyes what they have meant for this program.

“Just shear volume of games that those guys have pulled the Massachusetts sweater over their heads is incredible,” Micheletto said. “So the minutes they’ve logged and the points they’ve scored are one thing, but the more important thing in my estimation as a group is how well they represented the program and school.”

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