UMass starts hot, finishes strong in upset win over No. 12 Notre Dame

By Kyle DaLuz

Imogen Fairs /Collegian
Imogen Fairs /Collegian

The Massachusetts hockey team did not use the return from the Friendship Four Belpot tournament in Belfast, Northern Ireland as a tired and sleepless bunch as an excuse heading into Friday night’s showdown with No. 12 Notre Dame at Mullins Center.

Instead, UMass (4-7-2, 2-5-1 Hockey East) scored more goals than it had in any game this season and defeated the Fighting Irish (7-6-2, 3-3-1 HEA) 5-4 in its first win over a ranked opponent in the Greg Carvel era.

“I was a little concerned about how we would come out but obviously we looked like the more energized team,” Carvel said.

The Minutemen came out with more energy than they had in any prior contest this season, but failed to score early against Notre Dame goalie Cal Petersen.

The offense came alive in the second period, scoring three times in just over six minutes, two of which coming on the man advantage.

In his first game since Nov. 4 against Connecticut, Ray Pigozzi found the back of the net on a perfectly executed tic-tac-toe set up at 10:28 in the second.

Austin Plevy entered the Notre Dame zone and quickly fired a pass through the slot to captain Steven Iacobellis. Iacobellis fed a wide open Pigozzi on the doorstep for the easy score.

After the Fighting Irish nearly tied the game with a Jake Evans shot that hit the iron, Niko Hildenbrand reaped the benefits of Jake Horton’s snapshot from the point. Horton fired a shot in on Notre Dame goalie Cal Petersen that bounced off his left leg pad, and Hildenbrand gathered the puck and pushed it across the goal line to give the Minutemen a two-goal lead at 14:15.

“In practice every day and every week, we start putting pucks on net and stop in front of the net and I think we’re starting to stress rebound goals,” Iacobellis said. “That just goes to show that if you go hard to the net and get shots on net good things will happen.”

“We need one goal like that every game,” Carvel said.

Two minutes later, Iacobellis dangled through the slot and fired a backhand shot that beat Petersen on the short side to give UMass a comfortable three-goal lead at intermission.

The No. 12-ranked Irish would not go quietly into the night, as Notre Dame tallied four goals in the final period.

A one-time shot from the left circle from Andrew Peeke and a wrister off the stick of Anders Bjork cut the Minutemen lead to 3-2 at 4:24 into the third period.

UMass would not relent. Austin Plevy, the third member of the first line to score Friday night, got a good bounce in front on a third period power play to restore a two-goal cushion. His two points keep him atop the team leaders with 10 on the season.

Pigozzi scored his second of the game off a faceoff before Bjork cut the Minutemen lead to one with 3:59 remaining in the third.

Although some weren’t pretty, goalie Ryan Wischow made the saves he needed to, and closed out the conference victory for UMass.

Wischow stopped 21 of Notre Dame’s 25 attempts, including 10 in the final period. The Minutemen power play converted on three of its four opportunities, scoring just nine in the previous 80 attempts this season.

“When they crept back in it we were able to push forward with huge power play goals,” Carvel said. “We’ve had games this season where we’ve had five minute majors and five-on-threes and haven’t been able to score and I thought that was the biggest difference tonight.”

Iacobellis’s three points were a team-high this season, as was Pigozzi’s two goals – the first time in 13 games that the Minutemen had a multi-goal scorer in a game this season.

The two teams will do battle again Saturday night at Mullins Center. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m.

Kyle DaLuz can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Kyle_DaLuz.