Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Fast start fuels UMass hockey to third straight win

No. 11 Minutemen beat UNH, 5-1

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Fast start fuels UMass hockey to third straight win

(Caroline O'Connor/ UMass Athletics)

(Caroline O'Connor/ UMass Athletics)

(Caroline O'Connor/ UMass Athletics)

(Caroline O'Connor/ UMass Athletics)

By Ryan Ames, Assistant Sports Editor

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DURHAM, N.H.—The revenge tour continues.

After dropping both contests to New Hampshire last season, the Massachusetts hockey team unleashed a full-fledged attack in the first period of Saturday night’s bout that ultimately kick-started it’s 5-1 win.

Mitchell Chaffee and Philip Lagunov scored twice in the opening period, giving No. 11 UMass (6-1-0, 3-0-0 Hockey East Association) a healthy cushion. Cale Makar joined the barrage in the second period, with John Leonard and Jacob Pritchard contributing soon after in the third, to round out an offensive onslaught for the Minutemen.

It was the first win for UMass in Durham since 2006 and the first time the Minutemen have started 3-0-0 in Hockey East action since the 2009-10 season.

“That was a little bit of a monkey on our back that we wanted to take care of,” coach Greg Carvel said about winning at Whittemore Center. “I really like my hockey club. I think we came in here tonight [and] we wanted to frustrate UNH.

“It’s tough to win on the road in this league and UNH is a skilled team with speed. I thought we did a good job limiting their skill and speed.”

UNH (1-4-1, 1-1-0 HEA) broke through late in regulation on a Kohei Sato goal that spoiled UMass goalie Matt Murray’s shutout bid with just over a minute remaining in the game.

Murray stopped 19 shots for his fourth-straight win in the cage.

“He’s been outstanding,” Carvel said. “I’ve been asked a lot who’s been the surprising player of the year and I’ve given some other names to this point but Murray’s a guy who’s really elevated and it’s made us a much better team.”

The Minutemen struck first on Chaffee’s sixth of the year. An errant Wildcat pass was intercepted by Marc Del Gaizo right on the attacking blueline and he found Oliver Chau behind both UNH defensemen. Instead of ripping a shot, Chau left an incredible no-look, between the legs pass to Chaffee, who pounded it into the wide-open cage for a 1-0 advantage.

“He’s got eyes in the back of his head, it’s pretty incredible,” Chaffee said about Chau’s pass. “He’s an amazing player but it was great on his part to find me down there.”

It was all UMass for much of the period thereafter with the Minutemen controlling much of the possession in all three zones.

“Only having one game this week really keeps the guys all fresh and there was a great energy before the game and it carried onto the ice, for sure,” Murray said.

Late in the frame, Pritchard took a pass from Leonard and set up shop behind the Wildcat net. Seconds later, Pritchard dished the puck to Lagunov who plucked it past Wildcat goalie Mike Robinson (17 saves), doubling UMass’ lead to 2-0 at 14:08.

“The middle 10 minutes of that period I think you saw in the offensive zone, we try to be creative, we try to be patient with the puck, poised, and I thought we were getting very creative, moving the puck around and creating some nice scoring opportunities,” said Carvel of the first period.

The Wildcats pressed in the second period, trapping the Minutemen in its end for extended shifts but their defensive structure stood tall.

“We know we have to kinda collapse back to the net and defense is first,” said Chaffee. “But once you take care of the D-zone it kinda leads to offense.”

Makar scored his fourth of the season on a seeing-eye shot from the right faceoff dot after taking a feed from Chaffee about midway through the period, giving UMass a 3-0 lead. Makar flexed his skating ability by starting the play with a dazzling rush up the ice, one of a few he managed on the evening.

UNH’s power play had two chances to reel the game back in the middle stanza, including a 5-on-3 to start the period, but UMass killed off both tries.

The Minutemen scored on their power play in the third on a howitzer from Leonard that flew by Robinson’s shoulder, bringing the score to 4-1 at 12:22 of the third. UMass went 1-for-4 on the man-advantage.

The goal counted as Leonard’s eighth point in his last three games while Chaffee furthered his point streak to four games.

Sato tapped in his first of the year after a turnover behind the Minutemen net but Pritchard marched right back down and brought it back to a four-goal deficit with a back-foot snap shot marker, late in regulation.

“I think every game is an opportunity is a game to make a statement,” Murray said. “I’m not going into any games saying this game I’m going to make a statement and do this and that. It’s more of just, alright I got to do my part to help the team win and I felt like I did my part tonight.”

Correction: Merrimack scored the first goal of the game last Saturday in North Andover.

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

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