Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass hockey battles back from three goals down to tie Vermont

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Erica Lowenkron/Daily Collegian

(Erica Lowenkron/Daily Collegian)

It’s becoming a trend for the Massachusetts hockey team to fall behind early, dig a sizeable hole and pull off an improbable rally to earn points in an unlikely fashion.

It happened on the first weekend of the season, when the Minutemen trailed by three goals entering the third period against Colorado College, but stormed back to tie the game and eventually win in overtime.

It reoccurred in their Hockey East opener against New Hampshire, as UMass trailed 6-1 – yes, 6-1 –  before scoring five unanswered goals to earn a stunning 6-6 tie.

And Sunday afternoon at Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vermont, it happened again.

The Minutemen trailed Vermont 3-0 entering the third period, but goals from Patrick Lee and William Lagesson cut the deficit to 3-2 with under five minutes to play. And with 40 seconds left and the UMass net empty, Ray Pigozzi did what he couldn’t do Friday against Merrimack and scored to tie the game 3-3.

The Catamounts had several chances to redeem themselves in the overtime period but either couldn’t finish or couldn’t beat Minutemen goaltender Nic Renyard, and the game ended in a draw.

UMass coach John Micheletto said he’s tried to keep emotions out of the equation in a season that’s featured some stunning comebacks already.

“I don’t let myself be in a position to have emotion tied to it,” Micheletto said after the game. “We try to play in the moment. I’m happy when we do it, and I’m happy we have guys that can.”

Vermont – where Micheletto spent nine years as an assistant – jumped out to a 2-0 lead after first period goals from Jonathan Turk and Brian Bowen, and led 3-0 just moments into the second period after Alexx Privitera scored again for the Catamounts.

It was all Vermont would manage offensively for the afternoon after UMass’ defense tightened and Renyard showed good poise in net. Renyard, a freshman, made 41 saves to keep his team in the game while it figured out the issues in front of him.

“We saw a lot of this in his play during the recruiting process, and he’s transitioned really well to this level,” Micheletto said. “His calm demeanor is a real asset when play gets frenzied.”

In the third, a power play goal from Lee put the Minutemen on the board and a Lagesson wrist shot through traffic made it a one-goal game, setting the stage for Pigozzi’s heroics.

“We had a great response in the third period,” Micheletto said. “I thought our effort and execution improved as the game went on.”

Still, Micheletto was not happy about another slow start for the team, and said he wasn’t quite sure why it’s been a theme for UMass over the last few games.

“I don’t know that I can put my finger on it yet. It’s not the whole team. A couple of guys have been slow to get to their game and that has a ripple effect on the group,” Micheletto said.

Next weekend, the Minutemen will close out a pair of Hockey East series with a trip east. After hosting New Hampshire and Merrimack at the Mullins Center, UMass will travel to Durham, New Hampshire Friday night for a matchup with the Wildcats and will take on the Warriors in North Andover the next day.

Puck drop Friday night is set for 7 p.m. at the Whittemore Center.

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

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