Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Austin Plevy shines in weekend debut with five points and a game-winning goal

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Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

There were several standout performers from the Massachusetts hockey team’s two-game sweep of Colorado College on the opening weekend of the 2015-16 season.

Senior Shane Walsh picked up where he left off in terms of goal scoring – the senior led all returning players with 14 goals last season and netted three in the series against the Tigers. Sophomore Dennis Kravchenko also had a hot start to the year after a strong freshman campaign, scoring a goal and adding three assists as well.

But the star of the weekend was without question freshman forward Austin Plevy. The five-foot-10, 185-pound native of Langley, British Columbia, scored a hat trick Friday night in his first collegiate appearance, and followed it up with the game-winning goal Saturday to cap a 4-3 comeback victory to secure the sweep against Colorado College.

In total the freshman forward recorded five points over the weekend, and the accolades came flooding in.

First, Hockey East named him Co-Rookie of the Week along with Connecticut freshman Max Letunov, who also scored a hat trick in his debut. Plevy was also named co-UMass student-athlete of the week.

And Tuesday, the NCAA hockey Twitter account named him the No. 1 star of the week for the entire country.

Although Plevy acknowledged the individual praise, he was quick to return the focus to the team as a whole.

“It’s pretty cool,” Plevy said after practice Tuesday. “It makes me feel pretty good. But the most important thing is to help the team win. We came home with four points …  I’m pretty happy that what I could do personally was able to help us win.”

UMass coach John Micheletto was not surprised that Plevy brushed off his individual acclaim.

“He’s really a modest kid, a very unassuming kid,” Micheletto said. “He’s a really good teammate.

“It was a great introduction to our fans and to college hockey for Austin,” Micheletto added.

Plevy entered the year with a reputation for making pucks find the back of the net. He led the Alberta Junior Hockey League with 92 points (29 goals, 63 assists) in just 56 regular season games as a member of the Brooks Bandits. His career with the Bandits totaled 157 points in 104 games.

Plevy started the year immediately on the first line skating with Kravchenko and Walsh. But a preseason injury to Kravchenko forced Micheletto to do some shuffling, so Plevy played the first game alongside junior captain Steven Iacobellis. The following night he was back with Kravchenko and Walsh, a look that has to be encouraging to Micheletto as the freshman produced on both lines.

“A (four goals, one assist) weekend on your first weekend of college hockey is something I’m sure he’ll look back on very fondly,” Micheletto said.

Other weekend notes

After their impressive sweep over the Tigers, the Minutemen garnered some national attention. In the United States College Hockey Organization top 20 poll, they received a total of five votes.

It was still 56 points behind the first team out of the top 20 (Michigan State), but it’s a sign the Minutemen have turned heads and might have changed some opinions after they were picked to finish last in a preseason Hockey East coaches poll.

It was an important week for UMass goaltenders. After fighting it out during the preseason, sophomore Henry Dill got the start opening night against Colorado College.. He performed well, surrendering three goals but making 39 saves on the night to give the Minutemen their first win of the year.

It’s not surprising Micheletto went with experience in game one, but it’s also no shock he gave highly touted freshman Nic Renyard an opportunity in game two. He looked good as well, letting in an identical three goals but making 45 saves to help UMass come back from a 3-0 deficit to win.

Friday’s starter for the Minutemen’s home opener against Sacred Heart is still unknown, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Micheletto go with the more experienced Dill again. Still, both goalies should see plenty of playing time in the first half of the year while Micheletto evaluates the position before conference play.

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

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