Another blown third period lead results in heartbreak for UMass hockey

By Anthony Chiusano

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian
Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — In a season full of third period meltdowns and blown opportunities late in games, Massachusetts hockey coach John Micheletto has often brought up the importance of playing a consistent 60 minutes of hockey and how the Minutemen’s failure to do so has led to many of their defeats.

Friday night, UMass (9-20-2, 4-15-1 Hockey East) fell eight seconds short of this objective, conceding a game-tying score to No. 12 Providence College with just eight ticks left in regulation. The Minutemen then fell 3-2 in overtime.

Ross Mauermann recorded the equalizer on a large scrum in front of UMass goaltender Steve Mastalerz. The goal concluded a Friars’ barrage that outshot the Minutemen 14-3 in the final frame.

“We did not reward ourselves for the effort we put into the first 59 minutes,” Micheletto said.

With UMass appearing to play the majority of the third period in its own defensive zone, Mastalerz was constantly involved in the Minutemen’s attempt at preserving the lead. While the senior goalie finished with 40 saves, he couldn’t cover the puck up during Providence’s final attack in regulation.

“(The initial shot) went into my chest, rebounded out front and guys were whacking away at it a bit kind of in desperation and it slid in between my foot and the post,” Mastalerz said about the game-tying goal. “I didn’t even see it go in.”

Mastalerz added: “We worked too hard as a team and to not get the (win) with eight seconds left on the clock was disappointing.”

Coach John Micheletto spoke with officials about the reviewed goal after it was confirmed. (Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)
Coach John Micheletto spoke with officials about the reviewed goal after it was confirmed.
(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

After the game Micheletto said that he believed there was contact made by a Providence player on Mastalerz prior to the goal. While the call on the ice was reviewed, the referees did not reverse the call.

“On their brand new jumbotron they got there, it certainly looked like they made contact,” Micheletto said.

The Friars (19-10-2, 11-7-1 HEA) then took their momentum into overtime, scoring off a UMass turnover in its own zone. Noel Acciari was credited with the game-winner with one minute, 54 seconds remaining, giving him his 10th goal of the season.

While Micheletto said he didn’t believe regaining energy was a problem in overtime following the blown advantage, he added that the single miscue, a failed clear attempt by Ray Pigozzi, ultimately downed UMass.

“You’re trying to block out any negative thoughts that you may be having there,” Micheletto said. “Basically, I thought we were in a good spot. We got through a couple of shifts and then we made one bad mistake and good teams bury them when you do that.”

Friday’s game marked the fourth time this season in which UMass held a lead heading into the final period, only to leave without a victory. But according to Mastalerz, the tightly contested game continued to show the Minutemen’s ability to stay competitive.

“We obviously had the lead and we have to go back to playing to win and not just playing not to lose,” Mastalerz said. “It’s obviously frustrating but at the same time, we had a good opportunity to win again in the second half (of the season), which has been a pretty big theme for us.”

UMass faces a quick turnaround off of Friday’s disappointing finish, as the Minutemen return to the Mullins Center for Senior Night in another matchup against Providence. It will be the third battle against the Friars this season. Providence has won the first two.

“We still got a game (Saturday) so you can’t get frustrated,” Mastalerz said. “You just got to keep working and just pull through (Saturday).”

Saturday’s game begins at 7 p.m.

Anthony Chiusano can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @a_chiusano24.