UMass club hockey rides offensive attack in victory over Siena

By Ariel Kallenbach

(Nicole Evangelista/Daily Collegian)
(Nicole Evangelista/Daily Collegian)

Leading 2-1 toward the end of the first period after successfully killing off a penalty by Siena, the Massachusetts club hockey team lost possession of the puck, allowing the Saints to charge down the ice toward goaltender Dylan Deselin.

Distracted and displaced by action on one side of the crease, Deselin failed to block a shot by Siena that snuck past the senior goalie late in the first.

However, what would have been a tying goal for the Saints and increased pressure on the Minutemen was waved off by the referees for goalie interference. The called-off goal was the last time Siena had a chance at a comeback Saturday night, as UMass dominated in a 7-2 win.

The Minutemen quickly polished off a grinding first period with a shorthanded goal by Ryan Daigle off a Siena power play with 19.7 seconds left, leaving UMass with a 3-1 advantage heading into the second period.

The Minutemen then exploded in the second frame, matching the previous period with an additional three goals. The fourth goal was by senior captain Mike DeFazio, assisted by Ted Zimmerman.

“I have been playing with (Zimmerman) on the wing,” DeFazio said.  “He’s a great player, makes things happen and we play a similar style of play.”

In the midst of a 3-on-2 battle, DeFazio said he saw Zimmerman rushing the puck down along the boards, taking the Siena defensemen wide. UMass defenseman Nick Carter skated to the net, while DeFazio filled in the gap between the two defensemen and shouted to Zimmerman for the puck.

“He must have heard me, hit me with a beautiful pass and I got a shot on net,” DeFazio said.

Soon after scoring, however, DeFazio received a double-minor penalty, throwing the Minutemen into a four-minute penalty killing situation. But the Minutemen once again successfully held off Siena and continued to show success in penalty situations throughout Saturday night’s game.

UMass associate head coach Joe Smith lauded his team’s performance on the penalty kill.

“First semester we felt that we weren’t as strong on the kill as we should have been, so for the last couple games we went to a new system,” Smith said. “The last two weekends we’ve managed to kill every penalty we’ve taken, against some very good teams.

“It makes a difference when you can have faith that you’re going to kill those penalties and not let the other team get momentum.”

Mark Fidler increased the score to 5-1 with a strong shot from the circle that ricocheted off the post and found the back of the Saints’ net with one minute, 32 seconds left in the second period. Fidler’s goal was quickly followed by another goal by Peter Kelly at 56.8 seconds, further expanding UMass’ lead.

The Minutemen began the third period with a five-minute power-play opportunity. Although it ran through scoreless, it contributed to the momentum that led to the final goal of the game by Adam Kmetz.

Siena answered with its second goal late in the third but could not close the gaping lead.

UMass applied offensive pressure and tallied shots on goal throughout the game through strong physical play and increased intensity. The Saints’ attempt to match the Minutemen’s speed and fervor was earnest but ineffective, as they were unable to beat Deselin. UMass outshot Siena 40-21.

The Minutemen left the ice with a huge win on Senior Night and their final home game of the season.

“It felt great, DeFazio said. “It will be my last memory of that rink as a player and I don’t think it could have been a better night.”

“The game was a good way to send off the seniors at home,” Smith said. “At the same time they know that there’s a lot of work ahead of us over the next month and we can’t afford to sit back in any of the games we have coming up.”

The Minutemen will play their final league game of the season Tuesday, Feb. 3, at Holy Cross. With a win, UMass will be the Northeast Collegiate Hockey Association (NECHA) champion and clinch the No. 1 seed heading into league playoffs.

“On Tuesday we’re really going to have to use it as an opportunity to keep the momentum going from that win and get ourselves mentally and physically sharp for the trip to Florida next weekend,” Smith said. “We’ll only have one practice and then one game this week to make sure we’re ready to go and playing consistent hockey.”

UMass departs for Florida on Thursday to play two games against undefeated Florida Gulf Coast .

The Minutewomen will return from their road trip to begin the NECHA playoffs as defending champions and hope to qualify for regionals by being ranked within the top 10. This would put them one step closer to their ultimate goal of reaching nationals in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Ariel Kallenbach can be reached at [email protected].