UMass club hockey loses to Northeastern 6-2 in NECHA playoffs

By Ryan Ames

 

(Official Conway Arena Facebook page)
(Official Conway Arena Facebook page)

The Massachusetts club hockey team fell 6-2 to Northeastern University Friday night in the NECHA league playoff semifinals held in Nashua, New Hampshire.

After UMass (22-6-2) tied the game at two goals apiece just under halfway through the second period, the Huskies (15-7-1) scored the next four goals, all unanswered, to pull away from the Minutemen and squash any hope they had of repeating as league champions.

“Last night was probably the worst game we’ve played all year,” UMass coach Mike DeFazio said. “It came as a surprise because we had one of our best weeks of practice heading into this game, but I don’t think we were completely focused out on the ice and I think that cost us.”

Northeastern started the scoring six minutes, 25 seconds into the opening frame after a Huskies forward ripped a wrist shot past Minuteman starting goaltender Luke Lepine from the left circle to give the Huskies an early 1-0 advantage.

UMass hung around for the rest of the first but couldn’t capitalize on any chances and remained down by a goal as the period came to an end.

Similar to the opening period, Northeastern found the back of the net early as it scored off a Minutemen neutral zone turnover and extended their lead to 2-0 with 13:48 left in the second period.

UMass quickly responded when senior captain Ryan Daigle beat the Huskies goalie and cut the deficit to 2-1. Assists were given to sophomores Dennis Medeiros and Robert Tirea.

The Minutemen clearly gained some momentum after this goal as they light the lamp shortly after, this time on the power play from senior Adam Kmetz, who was playing in his first game since suffering a clavicle injury back in November, to tie the game back up at two.

“(Kmetz) played well tonight,” DeFazio said. “I thought he was one of the few guys that showed he wanted to be on the ice tonight, probably because he hasn’t been since November, but it was nice having him back in the lineup and contributing right away.”

Northeastern didn’t let the two UMass goals phase it though, as it scored two more times before the end of the second to kill the Minutemen’s momentum, bringing the score to 4-2.

“We battled back to tie the game, but then we took a dumb penalty right after our second goal and looking back, that may have been what cost us the game,” DeFazio said. “We had all the momentum, then lost it and Northeastern scored two goals to put us in a tough spot.”

With UMass down by two goals entering the third period, it needed a quick turnaround to get things back on track and put together another comeback. However, that never happened and the Huskies tacked on two more goals to seal the victory and send the Minutemen home earlier than they expected.

Although UMass didn’t win the league title, it still has a chance to earn a spot in Nationals as it qualified for the Northeast Regional Tournament that will be held next weekend in Danbury, Connecticut.

The Minutemen clinched the number two seed from their regular season record and will play the number seven seed, which has yet to be determined. UMass has a chance at redemption next weekend as Northeastern also qualified for regionals, so the Minutemen could see their rivals again, this time with a ticket to Nationals on the line.

“We’ll definitely be looking for revenge,” DeFazio said regarding the possibility of facing the Huskies again. “Not to get ahead of ourselves but if we both win our first games, we’ll see each other and whoever wins that goes to Nationals, so it’ll definitely be a motivating factor heading into those games.”

“The ultimate goal is to go to Nationals, so I told the guys to put this loss behind them and focus on what we’ve been working for all year,” he added. “Hopefully this got the bad game out of our system and gave us a wakeup call heading into Regionals next weekend.”

Ryan Ames can be reached at [email protected]