UMass hockey steals win over Vermont with last-second overtime goal

Down 2-0 after two, Minutemen net three unanswered goals to secure victory


(Caroline O’Connor/Daily Collegian)

By Mollie Walker, Collegian Staff

The Massachusetts hockey team stole the first of three potential games with Vermont after forcing overtime with two third period goals before notching the overtime goal with 3.3 seconds remaining to earn the 3-2 victory.

“Our most skilled guys made the difference tonight,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “I thought as the game went on we got better, it was a good playoff game it was entertaining. Both teams played well and our best players rose to the top.”

John Leonard, who returned to the lineup after missing two games, broke out of a scrum in the UMass (16-17-2, 9-13-2 Hockey East) zone and raced down the ice before dishing it off to a trailing Philip Lagunov who deflected the puck off his cage past Catamount goalie Stefanos Lekkas.

Referees waived the goal off instantly believing that Lagunov had kicked the puck in, before deciding to review the play. The Mullins Center crowd of 2,573 erupted as the call was reversed.

“I was pretty confident that it was a goal,” Lagunov said. “I knew I didn’t touch the goalie and the net wasn’t off, so I was pretty confident.”

The three unanswered goal performance counts as the first time the Minutemen have earned the win when trailing after two periods this season.

UMass has not won in the opening round of the postseason since 2015 when it overcame Notre Dame 4-3 in five overtimes.

Makar said the goal in the locker room before overtime was to stay on track.

“The biggest thing for us was to not get our mind off of our main focus of winning the game,” Makar said. “Even though we had the momentum with scoring two straight, we just wanted to stay on course and there was a lot of back and forth in overtime, but I think for the most part we stayed consistent and that’s why we were gifted at the end.”

Matt Alvaro put the Catamounts on the board at 13:09 in the opening frame after two UMass defenders fumbled with the puck in front of the net and the sophomore managed to snap home the first goal of the game.

UMass went on its second power play in the middle frame before Niko Hildenbrand got called for goalie interference to force 4-on-4 play. Seconds later Ivan Chukarov was called for cross-checking and sent UMass on its heels to defend the 5-on-3 advantage. Jake Massie capitalized to take the lead 2-0 for the Catamounts.

“I wasn’t happy after the second, I gave it to them. They were holding each other accountable, I didn’t really need to but I felt like I had to just to get it out of my system,” Carvel said. “To be down 2-0 at home, finally get a playoff series–but that’s another big step for us this year.”

Carvel was disappointed with some of the Minutemen’s decisions made on the ice, feeling as though they were in the most trouble when they lost their heads. He considered Chukarov’s penalty “inexcusable” especially considering UMass was already on the penalty kill.

“As the game went on I thought we started playing playoff hockey in the third and overtime, but we weren’t ready at the beginning of the game,” Carvel said.

Just 59 seconds into the third, Leonard carried the puck from the far corner and cut through the center to send it five-hole past Lekkas to cut the Minutemen deficit in half after going scoreless for two periods.

Cale Makar took the puck coast-to-coast, skillfully weaving through Vermont defenders before he wristed it to the back of the net as he fell to the ice to knot the game at 2-2.

“[Makar] was ready to pop, I think tonight he was just a different level,” Carvel said. “He’s a competitive kid and he has a lot of pride to go along with all that ability and skill. When he puts it all together and he gets determined he’s a special player, he was the difference maker tonight.”

In his seventh consecutive start, Matt Murray turned aside 31 shots including eight in overtime to improve to a 9-11-2 record this season. Carvel and the Minutemen believe the freshman was solid between the pipes.

“I think [Murray] is a great backbone for us there he makes some big saves in big moments for us,” Makar said. “Overall he’s going to be a big component for our team if we go down this home stretch.”

Lekkas gave up three of the 41 shots he faced despite shutting the Minutemen out through the first two periods. The sophomore falls to 4-11-2 on the season.

Returning to the Mullins Center tomorrow night, UMass looks for the sweep.

Puck is set to drop at 7 p.m.


Mollie Walker can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter at MWalker2019.