Missed opportunities lead to deadlock for UMass hockey

By Anthony Chiusano

Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian
Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

A week ago, most Massachusetts hockey fans would view the Minutemen’s current three points through two games against UMass Lowell as a positive.

But when looking at how each game played out, it is easy for those same fans to now be disappointed in the Minutemen not coming away two victories and a chance for a clean sweep against the River Hawks this Saturday.

Instead, UMass and UMass Lowell fought to a 3-3 tie in Friday night’s affair at the Mullins Center following last weekend’s 5-2 Minutemen victory. While UMass took advantage of the River Hawks’ mistakes last Saturday, Friday’s game was marked by missed opportunities.

The Minutemen entered the final period Friday with a 2-1 lead before tacking on another score six minutes into the frame to put the River Hawks in a two-goal deficit.

But UMass Lowell responded with a shorthanded goal from Evan Campbell in the 11th minute and a Michael Kapla score in the 17th minute to bring the game to a deadlock that ended with a scoreless overtime.

“The way it happened, it’s not the way you wanted it to go when you have a pretty good opportunity to win the game,” senior goaltender Steve Mastalerz said. “So we’re not really happy with our full effort.”

UMass coach John Micheletto said that turnovers were key in failing to preserve the lead in a game where he said neither team held a distinct advantage.

“There were a lot of good things but I thought we were a little too loose with the puck, that would be my one criticism of our game tonight,” Micheletto said. “As many opportunities that we had to win, I thought we gave up our fair share of opportunities to lose that game as well.”

In particular, Micheletto said that failures to maintain possession on the power play hindered the Minutemen’s ability to attack on offense.

“On the power play, I thought we did a poor job of supporting on the break in,” Micheletto said. “I thought we were more worried about getting into our positions than worrying about possession and that’s obviously something that you’re trying to guard us against.”

Dennis Kravchenko echoed Micheletto’s belief, saying that UMass didn’t pressure the River Hawks’ backline as hard as last Saturday’s performance. Despite totaling 32 shots Friday, the Minutemen had limited quality chances with the man-advantage.

“Even though we had 30-plus shots, I don’t think we had enough on the power play,” Kravchenko said. “So we can really work on getting more pucks on net and getting bodies in front.”

Despite emphasizing the importance a win would’ve had in building momentum, Kravchenko maintained that earning a tie against the No. 16 team in the league – and a team that UMass hadn’t beaten in four years before last weekend – was still an encouraging sign for the Minutemen (9-18-1, 4-13-1 Hockey East).

“To see that we can battle and even succeed against ranked teams…it feels good to be up there with those guys,” Kravchenko said. “It’s a confidence boost.”

UMass finishes off its weekend set with the River Hawks Saturday afternoon in Lowell in its second attempt at clinching the season series. Faceoff is set for 4 p.m.

“Being in a position to win against a ranked team late in the year was good and we’ll take everything we can out of this and head to Tsongas tomorrow afternoon,” Micheletto said.

Iacobellis returns

While senior captain Troy Power missed his second consecutive game due a head injury, Steven Iacobellis returned from his two-game absence with a goal Friday.

The sophomore’s score, his 20th point of the season, came shorthanded on a 2-on-1 break set up by a Kravchenko pass. It gave the Minutemen their short-lived 3-1 lead early in the third period.

“I saw the (defense) kind of go down and I kind of wanted to shoot it, but at the same time I saw (Iacobellis) just wide open,” Kravchenko said about the breakaway goal. “He didn’t even need to call for it, I knew he was there.”

According to Mastalerz, Iacobellis not only brings increased depth and speed to UMass’ lineup but also a sense of leadership important for the last leg of the regular season.

“He’s a big voice in the room,” Mastalerz said. “(He’s) a small guy but he has some heart in him. He likes to play with all his heart and just gives it his all, so it’s nice to have guys like that with you.”

Anthony Chiusano can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @A_Chiusano24.