UMass hockey silences UMass Lowell in 5-2 victory

By Jason Kates

Photo by Stephanie Berenson/Daily Collegian
Photo by Stephanie Berenson/Daily Collegian

In the first of three consecutive matchups this season, the Massachusetts hockey team defeated No. 11 UMass Lowell 5-2 Saturday night.

Two goals from Frank Vatrano led the way offensively for the Minutemen (9-18-1, 4-13-1 Hockey East), who defeated the River Hawks (16-10-3, 9-7-2 HEA) for the first time since the 2010-11 season.

Despite being without captain Troy Power and Steven Iacobellis, Coach John Micheletto was very proud of his team after a tough loss to Northeastern University the previous night, and the way in which they recovered.

“For us to have to make up 40-45 minutes of ice time between (Steven) Iacobellis and (Troy) Power not being in the lineup, the effort and commitment that we had tonight was special,” Micheletto said.

“It’s nice to continue the streak here in the second half. I know we’re not winning every game but we’re positioned to win every game in the third period, and with a young team that’s all you can hope for in the second half of the year.”

After a scoreless opening period, the Minutemen took a 1-0 lead on a goal from freshman Dennis Kravchenko at the 13:01 mark of the second period. It was his 10th of the season, and has now recorded a point in a career-high five consecutive games.

Two goals in the span of 37 seconds expanded UMass’ lead to 3-0 in the middle period, with Dominic Trento and Vatrano each finding the back of the net.

Vatrano added his 16th of the season to make it 4-0 just two minutes, 32 seconds into the final 20 minutes.

“It feels good and is obviously a big confidence booster,” Vatrano said. “Tonight was a great team effort and the best 60 minutes we’ve put together all year.

“If we keep doing that then I think we’re gonna do some great things here down the stretch.”

Defenseman Brandon Montour recorded two assists on the night, pushing his point total to 15 in 13 games since joining the team back in December.

“Ever since I came in here, I’ve tried to use my skating to my advantage,” Montour said. “I thought this weekend I used that pretty well. It’s definitely a good feeling.”

Micheletto also had praise for his young defenseman.

“It was really good,” Micheletto said. “He’s such a good skater that sometimes he moves from supporting the puck to releasing, and he’s gotta almost manage how good a skater he is at times to make sure his first mentality was support, and then release.

“I thought he did a really good job of that and being there for his partner. He’s got a special skill set as he continues to develop and learn the game at this level and get prepared for pro hockey whenever that happens down the line.”

On the defensive side of the puck, the Minutemen did not shy away from sacrificing their bodies, blocking a total of 19 shots. Steve Mastalerz got his second win of the season, making 28 saves and outplaying former UMass goaltender Kevin Boyle, who allowed five goals.

“If you’ll notice, I think in the second half of the year we’re averaging somewhere in that 18-20 range per game,” Micheletto said of the blocked shots. “When you’ve got guys that are willing to put their bodies on the line, that’s really appreciated by our guys when they’re showing that level of commitment.”

UMass Lowell did not go away quietly, scoring two quick power play goals Dylan Zink and Michael Kapla 27 seconds apart to make it 4-2.

But as he has done all season, Shane Walsh came through in the third period, adding a crucial goal just one minute later, giving the Minutemen a three-goal cushion and virtually killing all momentum the River Hawks may have had.

The Minutemen will be back at the Mullins Center next Friday night, as they get set to take on UMass Lowell for the second time before heading to Lowell for a third and final meeting.

Jason Kates can be reached at [email protected] and followed @Jason_Kates.