Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass downs Vermont 5-1 in series finale

Record-setting season continues next weekend at Northeastern

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(Jon Asgeirsson/Daily Collegian)

(Jon Asgeirsson/Daily Collegian)

(Jon Asgeirsson/Daily Collegian)

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On Sunday at the Mullins Center, the Massachusetts hockey team defeated Vermont 5-1 in the decisive Game Three of the opening round of the Hockey East Association playoffs, securing its first postseason series win in 11 years.

With Sunday’s win over the Catamounts (10-20-7), the Minutemen (17-18-2) booked their ticket to the quarterfinals of the 2018 playoffs and will travel to Matthews Arena next weekend in Boston to take on second-place Northeastern.

“Our team’s common goal was to gain some respect for this hockey program and I think we far exceeded even my hopes for the season,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “To get home ice and then to win a series — I’m excited to go in and be an underdog at NU.”

It was all freshman providing the offense for the Minutemen in this one, who received goals from Mario Ferraro, Jake Gaudet, Austin Albrecht, Oliver Chau, and John Leonard in the win. In total, UMass scored 11 goals in the best-of-three series off the sticks of nine different skaters.

“Our freshman class leads the country in points by a large margin,” Carvel said. “Some very gifted players. They’re special kids, I’m really proud of them. They did so much this year to boost this program.”

Prior to the game, Matt Murray, who started the previous eight games in net for the Minutemen, was determined out with an injury that he sustained in Game Two. With Murray sidelined, sophomore Ryan Wischow was thrust into the top goalie spot.

In his first start since Feb. 3 in a 3-1 loss at New Hampshire, Wischow put on the exact performance that was asked of him, turning away 30 of the 31 shots that went his way.

“When you’re not playing, you focus hard in practice to be ready when you get the opportunity,” the Wisconsin native said “Tonight I just tried to smother as many pucks as I could. I got a couple easy shots in the first minutes which got me into the game pretty easily, then we started scoring.”

Slow starts burned UMass in the first two games of the series, in which both times it was forced to erase two-goal deficits late. But in the season finale at Mullins, the Minutemen came out firing and provided a cushion for their goaltender who got the unexpected start just hours before the game.

Just 2:40 into the first, Ferraro took a pass from Leonard and slammed home a wraparound past Catamount netminder Stefanos Lekkas to jump out to an early lead.

“That was huge, that was huge,” Carvel said of the early goal. “And again, Mario sets the record for most points scored by a freshman [defenseman] in UMass history (21), that’s awesome.”

Seven minutes later, at 9:53, Brett Boeing sent a hard pass to Gaudet at center-ice that the freshman took in stride, resulting in a wrister finding its way past Lekkas.

“To get the 2-0 lead, instead of being down 2-0, was a major difference,” Carvel said. “I really liked our first period, everything about it.”

Vermont cut the lead in half just under five minutes into the second, but the Minutemen were quick to respond.

At 9:38, Albrecht walked alone into the Vermont zone and sent a wrister in on Lekkas to score his second of the series and put the lead back to two.

“[Albrecht] is heating up at the right time and I’m happy for him,” Carvel said. “When you’re an offensive player you get frustrated when you don’t get points in a while but he’s becoming very consistent.”

Chau added insurance to the UMass lead with his ninth of the season at 12:42 of the second. The goal came as his first since the start of the second half schedule on Jan. 5 at Yale.

Leonard’s tally at 13:09 of the third buried the hatchet on the game and the series, as the freshman forward scored his 12th of the season on a nifty double-toe-drag to deke out Lekkas.

“It just kind of happened I guess,” Leonard said. “I saw the defenseman come on my back side so I tried to hesitate a little bit and make a move around him. Lucky enough it ended up working out.”

 

Liam Flaherty can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @_LiamFlaherty.

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