Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass hockey advances to Capital City Classic championship following overtime victory over Maine

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Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian

Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian

After blowing a two-goal lead in the third period, it seemed like the same old story from past years for the Massachusetts hockey team.

Except once again, it wasn’t.

An overtime goal from junior Ray Pigozzi lifted the Minutemen (4-0-1, 0-0-1 Hockey East) to a 5-4 victory over Maine Friday evening, advancing UMass to the championship of the Capital City Classic to face No. 13 Yale.

With three minutes, 46 seconds remaining in overtime, Pigozzi got in on the forecheck and established body position on a Black Bears (0-3-3) defenseman. From there, luck took over.

“I tried to cross the puck back to Shane (Walsh), and it just happened to hit off their defenseman’s skate and went in,” Pigozzi said, recalling his game-winner. “Not the prettiest goal but I’ll take it.”

Coach John Micheletto said he was pleased with the way his team adjusted to a situation that hasn’t been present in the early portion of the season.

“I thought we did a nice job of managing what was a much different game for us for the first time this year,” he said. “Obviously after playing on the Olympic sheet at Colorado College for two and then back home for two games, to play in a really tight building against a bigger, heavier team, it was nice for us to figure out how to play that game and win that game.

Holding a 4-2 advantage following a Walsh goal 5:24 into the final period, UMass squandered its two-goal lead, with Daniel Perez and Cedric Lecroix tallying goals for Maine to knot the game at four apiece with more than 13 minutes left in the game.

Despite this setback, Micheletto said he was pleased with the response from the bench, acknowledging that they’ve been in those situations before.

“I thought we did a nice job of not letting the bench energy not getting too frantic and crazy or quiet, which are always things we’re trying to guard against,” he said. “I think we had an appropriate amount of energy and voices and positive thoughts.

“Especially after they tied it, I thought we really got the momentum back in the game and controlled much of it from there on out.”

Coming into Friday having never faced Black Bears goalie Rob McGovern before, the Minutemen had to modify their offensive strategy to attack the 6-foot-4 goaltender.

After a slow start, UMass adapted and created multiple scoring chances throughout the game, finishing with 37 shots.

“I thought we were a little overcommitted to shooting high on him early in the game,” Micheletto said. “We talked about it and it became pretty evident to our guys at that point that we needed to force him to make saves in bunches. Despite a couple of pretty goals, we also did a better job of putting pucks on him and creating activity around him.”

Outside of Pigozzi’s game-decider, Dennis Kravchenko led the way offensively with two goals to move his tally to seven in 2015.

Through five games, Kravchenko and the rest of the Minutemen continue to perform at a high level offensively, averaging 5.2 goals per game.

When asked about the team’s continued success, Kravchenko, a sophomore, said it’s been “incredible and unreal,” and he praised the amount of talent UMass has on the front end.

“It puts us in a lot of better spots and gives us a chance in any game,” Kravchenko said. “Depending on whether or not our goaltender or defense is playing well, a lot of things can change. If that means we need to put up five goals, we know we can.”

Freshman Nic Renyard got the start for the Minutemen in net and made 37 saves to keep the Minutemen alive in key situations to earn the victory.

Micheletto praised the freshman’s performance, despite his four goals allowed.

“A lot of (Maine’s) shots were from the outside off the rush as well, so I don’t know that he was tested as consistently as our opportunities were, but when we needed him I thought he certainly made some good saves,” he said.

With a matchup against the Bulldogs Saturday night for the championship, Kravchenko said the key to sustaining this momentum comes down to two things: positivity and consistency.

“We just have to figure out what we did wrong (Friday) and learn from it,” he said.

Saturday’s puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

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

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