UMass club hockey tops Keene State in overtime thriller

By Ariel Kallenbach

(Jessica Chaiken/Daily Collegian)
(Jessica Chaiken/Daily Collegian)

With 15 seconds remaining in overtime, in the midst of a 3-on-3 battle, Massachusetts club hockey forward Peter Kelly fired a quick shot at Keene State goaltender Dylan Strogen that looked to be a sure game-winner.

Only Kelly’s attempt didn’t find the back of the net. Instead, his shot missed just wide, hitting the post as a dreaded “ping” sound echoed throughout the Mullins Center practice rink.

Freshman Robert Tirea was the first to notice the puck ricocheted off the post and snuck a rebound shot past Strogen to secure the 4-3 win for the Minutemen in their first overtime game in two years.

The moment was especially gratifying for Tirea, who was promoted from the third line to play alongside Mark Fidler and Alex Rojas.

“Tirea and Rojas are two of the fastest players in the league,” UMass associate head coach Joe Smith said. “They’ve been our most productive unit since the switch.”

Tirea was also placed on the Minutemen’s top power-play unit midway through the game, manning the point and creating chances with the man-advantage.

“I think (moving Tirea) made a big difference,” Smith said. “We got a couple chances off of it. He played a great game for us.”

After overcoming Marist College the previous night, 6-4, in Poughkeepsie, New York, UMass (7-3) took down the Owls in a fast-paced, evenly matched game on Saturday that featured back-and-forth goal scoring, a multitude of penalties and three ejections.

Though the Minutemen dominated play in the Keene State zone early in the first period, the Owls stepped up and gave UMass a fight. Keene State’s strong penalty kill led to two slow and unfruitful Minutemen power plays in a scoreless first period.

UMass captain Harris Stone made the score 1-0 with a wrap-around goal in the second period off an assist by Jason Goldsmith. However, the Owls quickly responded with a shot past Minutemen goalie Luke Lepine to tie the game.

UMass’ Chris Jones and Keene State’s Josh Bell were each given five-minute majors and game misconducts – Jones for hitting from behind and Bell for retaliation – forcing the teams to skate 4-on-4 six minutes into the second period.

The Owls took a 2-1 lead shortly after but skated a man down after Zachary Dykun took a major penalty and was ejected. The Minutemen capitalized on the extended power play with a goal from Adam Kmetz to tie the game at 2-2.

The tie was short-lived however, as Keene State scored with 17 seconds left in the second period to send UMass retreating to the locker room down 3-2.

Minutemen freshman defenseman Patrick Baker tied the contest at 3-3 with his first collegiate goal with 14 minutes, 17 seconds into the final frame.

UMass’ power play was sluggish early in the game but upped its pressure in its two power-play opportunities in the third before time ran out in regulation, forcing a five-minute 4-on-4 overtime period.

Ten seconds after the Owls took a penalty with 57 seconds left in the extra frame, Kmetz was called for roughing and the teams skated 3-on-3 the rest of the way until Tirea’s game-winner.

The Minutemen outshot Keene State 39-19 for their third straight win.

“We just won two games in about 15 hours, we played at 9 p.m. (Friday) in New York, so it’s a good grinding win for us,” Smith said. “We really needed it.”

The Minutemen return home Nov. 8 to take on New Hampshire at 6 p.m.

Ariel Kallenbach can be reached at [email protected]