Big third period sparks UMass hockey past Quinnipiac

Minutemen score three in the third

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(Will Katcher/Daily Collegian)

By Amin Touri, Sports Editor

They left it late, but they got it done.

Trailing No. 8 Quinnipiac 1-0 heading into the third period, the Massachusetts men’s hockey team came to life in the final frame on Saturday, finding the net three times to earn a big win in front of a sold-out Mullins Center crowd.

Ivan Chukarov, Jacob Pritchard and Bobby Trivigno each scored in the third to give No. 1 UMass (13-2-0) a series split.

“I thought tonight we were the stronger team for 60 minutes and deserved to win, but that’s great college hockey,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “And it’s great to see it in this building, with 8,000 people, it doesn’t get any better than this. You win and you beat a really good team at home, in front of a full house, and I’m just really happy for my kids. They deserve all the good things that are happening to them.”

A scoreless opening period gave way to a physical second, as the teams combined for seven penalties in the middle stanza. The Bobcats (14-3-0) broke through first, as Chase Priskie found some space on the power play and ripped a shot past UMass goaltender Matt Murray to open the scoring with his 12th goal of the season.

Through 40 minutes the Minutemen had very little going offensively — they had the better of the opportunities in the opening period but didn’t create any big chances, and the second period was more of the same. Quinnipiac goaltender Keith Petruzzelli was very good throughout, making a career-high 37 saves, but once the Minutemen got going, they didn’t stop.

The crowd of 8,412 was starting to fade before Chukarov brought the building back to life, taking advantage of some traffic out front to fire one past Petruzzelli to bring UMass level 5:27 into the third.

“I thought Petruzzelli, for two periods he looked really calm in the net, looked like he was seeing everything. So we talked in the second intermission about getting in front of his eyes, and Chukarov scored because we were in his eyes. I’m not sure who was at the net, but from the bench you could tell — I couldn’t see the goalie from the bench, so our guys were doing a good job blocking him.”

It only took three minutes for the Minutemen to take the lead, as an aggressive forecheck forced a turnover before Philip Lagunov found Jacob Pritchard wide open out front, and Pritchard went forehand-backhand to slip it past Petruzzelli and get the building shaking.

“Ty [Farmer] and Phil, perfect forecheck, created a turnover,” Pritchard said. “I was just at the net, Phil made a great pass and I just tucked it in.”

It was a big moment for a line — Pritchard, Lagunov and Leonard — that really struggled in Friday’s 4-0 loss in Hamden.

“I wasn’t happy at all with that line’s play last night,” Carvel said. “I thought they were very soft, and as I’ve told that line, they make our team go up or down. They have that ability to affect the game where, [Jake] Gaudet, [Mitchell] Chaffee, [Oliver] Chau, I know what I’m going to get from them every line. But Lagunov, Pritchard and Leonard, some nights they’re sky-high and they’re flying around the ice, then last night at Quinnipiac they didn’t touch the puck and they didn’t check anybody, and, so, had a little heart-to-heart with them.

“I thought as the game went on they got stronger and stronger. Pritchard’s flying around and Leonard makes that hit to cause the turnover, so when your scorer’s making big checks to help you win games, that’s a great sign.”

UMass continued to play well defensively in front of sophomore Matt Murray — who made 27 saves to move to 10-0-0 on the year — and Quinnipiac didn’t manage to put many shots on Murray’s cage in the final minute.

“Murray’s been lights-out this entire season, and tonight was another statement for him, and I feel like he’s just a wall behind us,” Chukarov said. “Makes us have confidence as well in the game.”

Petruzzelli was pulled with just under three minutes to go, and after Oliver Chau and Kurt Keats fired just wide of the empty cage, Trivigno managed to slide one across the goal line with 26 seconds to go to seal the win.

It was a big bounce back for a team that struggled to its biggest loss of the season on Friday, as the Minutemen skated out in front of a capacity crowd and made the most of it. Saturday’s attendance was a new record for a hockey game at the Mullins Center, as thousands flooded the student section waving white rally towels in an atmosphere very new to UMass hockey.

“It was something special,” said Chukarov. “Kind of got goosebumps walking out there, and seeing all those people with the white towels, it was a sight to see. Something we haven’t been used to in a while, so it was good to see.”

The Minutemen wrap up the first half of their season at home against Yale on Tuesday.

Amin Touri can be reached at [email protected], and followed on Twitter @Amin_Touri.