Keats, Wischow spearhead comeback in UMass hockey’s 2-2 tie with UConn

By Ryan Ames

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(Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts hockey team encountered a familiar problem Saturday night against Connecticut after trailing by two goals early into the game. However, the irrepressible play of sophomore forward Kurt Keats and the calming influence of freshman goalie Ryan Wischow led UMass to a 2-2 tie.

Keats’ overall game, highlighted by a game-tying goal in the third period, provided the Minutemen (2-4-1, 0-2-1 Hockey East Association) with an example of how head coach Greg Carvel wants his team to compete in close games.

“(Keats) been outstanding the last couple games, kind of leading the way for us one as a younger guy on the team,” Carvel said. “The way he’s playing is starting to creep into the room and I think the guys are starting to enjoy winning battles and feeling good about it. It’s absolutely what we need to do to have success.”

Carvel believes the leadership and competitive level, most notably exemplified by Keats, is something the Minutemen will have to shape into their identity moving forward in order for UMass to find success moving forward.

“He’s leading us by example of how we need our guys to play, and he scored two games in a row just sticking his nose into it and going to the net hard and being rewarded for it,” Carvel said.

After falling behind to UConn (3-2-4, 1-1-1 HEA) 2-0 just three minutes, 10 seconds into the opening period, it looked as though it would be another long night for the Minutemen. After managing to keep the Huskies at bay for the rest of the first period, UMass came out into the second period looking almost like a completely different team.

The urgency was clear right from the start as the Minutemen were buzzing around the ice, using their speed to tire out the big men from UConn, and were creating quality scoring chances to get them back into the game.

Also similar to last game, sophomore winger Austin Plevy started the scoring for UMass on the power play and from then on, the Minutemen were just about in full control of the contest.

“That was huge, especially for our power play they’ve been all around the net for the last couple of games and for them to put that one in I think it got us back into it,” Keats said of Plevy’s goal.

Keats’ goal at 6:25 of the final frame capped off a resilient comeback for UMass as the deadlock held throughout the overtime period, giving the Minutemen their first point in Hockey East action.

“I popped out there, we had some good net traffic, and I just kind of chipped it up over him,” Keats said.

Keats added: “I came in off the bench and I saw (Jack Suter) take it to the net, so I just crashed the net hard and he likes to take the puck to the net hard and he’s effective at it.”

Wischow holds down the backend  

Carvel also noted Wischow’s poise as the game went on and thought that added to UMass’ great second and third period showings.

“I really liked at the end of the game how comfortable he looked in the net,” Carvel said. “It’s tough, a minute into the game he’s facing shots from the slot and it’s a tough way to start facing shots from the slot. He didn’t see a whole lot of action through the second half of that game and at the end when we needed him he was really sound.”

“I usually don’t try to put too much pressure on myself, when you put a lot of pressure on yourself you’re not setting yourself up to succeed,” Wischow said.  “I just try to stay in the moment and have fun no matter what the score is of the game, and just try to give the team an opportunity to win.”

Wischow finished the night stopping 20-of-22 shots in net for a save percentage of 90.9, and held UConn without a goal for 62 minutes.

“I give our team a lot of credit, they reset and regroup and I thought the last 45 minutes of the game were really, really good,” Carvel said.

“I was just real proud of our effort tonight … It was a fun hockey game to coach.”

Ryan Ames can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @_RyanAmes.