UMass hockey falls to Quinnipiac due to struggling special teams play

By Ross Gienieczko

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(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts hockey team enjoyed strong special teams play on its way to a comeback victory Friday night against Quinnipiac.

But Saturday night, special teams play was the Achilles heel for the Minutemen, as they fell to the No. 13 Bobcats 3-1.

In the first period, UMass (4-9, 1-7 Hockey East) showed the same upset-minded attitude that led it to victory on Friday, even after Quinnipiac’s Tim Clifton scored the opening goal on the power play eight minutes, 27 seconds into the period, when he tipped home a Justin Agosta shot.

It didn’t take long for the Minutemen to respond. Two minutes, three seconds later, sophomore Frank Vatrano netted his fifth goal of the season to tie the game, and the period ended in a 1-1 tie.

After a slow start to the season, Vatrano has recorded nine points in his last nine games played. Senior Oleg Yevenko had the only assist on the goal, his fourth assist of the season and eighth of his career.

Early in the third period, though, a crucial mistake put the Bobcats back on top. Clifton scored shorthanded just 1:47 into the period, and Quinnipiac (9-4-1, 5-1 ECAC) regained the lead for good.

Sam Anas added an insurance goal for the Bobcats at 7:15 of the third period. It was his team-leading 10th goal of the season. Again, it was special teams that let UMass down, giving up another power play goal to give Quinnipiac a commanding two-goal lead.

After killing 6-of-6 power-play opportunities Friday night in Connecticut, the Minutemen allowed two goals on five chances Saturday. On the opposite side, UMass scored just once on seven opportunities with the man advantage.

Freshman Henry Dill made his second straight start for UMass, one night after his 37-save performance led the Minutemen to victory in Hamden, Connecticut. Saturday, though, his 27 saves were not enough as his record on the season dropped to 4-5. After entering the season as the backup, Dill has appeared in 10 games and started eight, including all four UMass wins.

For the Minutemen, it was an anemic night offensively. Vatrano’s goal in the first was their lone tally of the night, and they only managed 18 shots on goal.

Bobcats goaltender Sean Lawrence stopped 17 of them en route to the first win of his season and college career.

Attendance, with students still home for Thanksgiving break, was 1,911. UMass will return to action Friday night at 7 p.m. when it hosts Notre Dame in the first of a two-game series at Mullins Center.

Ross Gienieczko can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @RossGien.