UMass snaps nine-game winless streak against Army in overtime

By Ross Gienieczko

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Erica Lowenkron/Daily Collegian

Erica Lowenkron/Daily Collegian

As 2015 ended and the calendar shifted into a new year, the Massachusetts hockey team turned the page on a lengthy, winless stretch Saturday night in West Point, New York.

After regulation ended in a draw, UMass (7-8-4, 2-4-4 Hockey East) captain Steven Iacobellis scored less than a minute into overtime as the Minutemen rallied past Army for a 2-1 victory at Tate Rink.

It was the first win for UMass since a 5-3 Nov. 7 victory over Connecticut. In the nine games since, the Minutemen struggled to a 0-6-3 mark, but Saturday’s win against the Black Knights (5-9-4, 3-7-4 Atlantic Hockey) turned them back in the right direction.

“We had a lull going on there, for sure,” Iacobellis said after the win. “We made sure to come back out of the break with a higher intensity.”

In net for UMass was junior Alex Wakaluk, making his first appearance of the season. the second or third string goaltender in his time with the Minutemen to this point, Wakaluk made 22 saves to earn the first win of his collegiate career.

After the game, both Iacobellis and Minutemen coach John Micheletto said the team couldn’t be happier for him.

“I’m really, really happy for him,” Micheletto said. “He’s an outstanding teammate and he plays the game the right way. He’s worked hard to get this opportunity.”

“We might be more ecstatic about it than he is,” Iacobellis said of Wakaluk’s first win. “He’s one of the best guys in the room and he works his bag off.”

Wakaluk got the start in net while starter Nic Renyard served as the backup for the evening. Micheletto said Wakaluk’s performance in an exhibition game against the United States World Junior Championship team was enough to earn another chance to start.

Though the performance in net came from an unlikely source, it was one of the usual suspects who got UMass on the board offensively. Forward Shane Walsh scored for the fourth game in a row on a power play early in the second period, with assists going to Dominic Trento and Iacobellis. It was his team-leading 13th goal of the season and his four-game scoring streak is the longest for any active Minuteman.

“Scoring goals isn’t always about just shooting the puck,” Micheletto said. “(Walsh) gets to the goal scorers areas, which isn’t as easy as it sounds.”

Iacobellis echoed his coach’s sentiments, saying Walsh does a good job getting to the dirty areas around the net.

His goal tied the game 1-1 after Clint Carlisle scored his first goal of the season to put Army up with 1:16 remaining in the first period. Despite trailing 1-0 after the opening 20 minutes, Micheletto liked the way UMass played to open the game.

“We played a good road first period after being out of action for a few weeks,” Micheletto said.

The teams failed to produce any more offense for the rest of regulation, setting the stage for Iacobellis’s overtime winner just 22 seconds into the extra frame. It was the junior’s second goal of the season, and his two-point night pushed his total to 13 on the season.

The Minutemen will look to earn their first winning streak since a weekend sweep of UConn in November Tuesday night, when they host No. 13 Yale at Mullins Center. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m.

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