Late-game heroics sneak UMass past AIC 4-1

UMass improves to 4-1 on the season

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Will Katcher/ Daily Collegian

By Evan Marinofsky, Collegian Staff

The Massachusetts hockey team took down the American International hockey team 4-1 on Friday night.

It took the No. 3 Minutemen (4-1, 0-1 Hockey East) 57 minutes to net the tiebreaker. But when they did, it was John Leonard finally catching a break.

After Jack Suter fought to keep the puck in the offensive zone, Leonard retrieved the loose puck and began a 2-on-1 with line mate Bobby Trivigno. Leonard stickhandled, stopped up and ripped it through AIC (1-3-0, 1-0-0 American Hockey) goalie Zacakrias Skog’s legs to make it 2-1.

The Mullins faithful erupted.

“I think [Suter] just won a stick battle there,” Leonard said of the goal. “Not really sure how it started. Just saw the puck kind of between their feet and [Suter] poked it out there. First, I tried to take a look over to [Trivigno] and he was driving hard. Their d-man had a good stick in the lane there, so I just tried to go five-hole and fortunate it went in.”

Suter’s huge offensive zone play actually came from pre-scouting the Yellow Jackets.

“Our pre-scout was based on we knew they were a team that liked to hinge and attack through the neutral zone,” Suter said. “I knew that d-man was going to go up and try to look for a pass back so that was my main priority of taking that pass away. I think he just held onto it for a little bit too long and I was just able to get under his stick and [Leonard] was right there.”

The Minutemen added some insurance just 37 seconds later when Reed Lebster’s shot was tipped by Cal Kiefiuk right in front of the Yellow Jackets’ net to make it 3-1.

It was just how they drew it up.

“[Lebster] was rolling up the wall and we always say to make sure we have guys in front,” Kiefiuk said of his goal. “There was a couple of other chances throughout the game where pucks were laying around the front of the net and guys weren’t there to get them in. I was just getting to the net-front and trying to take away the goalie’s eyes.”

Leonard added an empty-netter with 45 seconds remaining in the game for some icing on the cake to make it 4-1 UMass.

Despite a slow first two minutes of the game, the Philip Lagunov-Jake Gaudet-Jeremy Davidson line changed the tides and cycled the puck deep in the AIC zone. The Minutemen’s top guns eventually hopped on the ice for the current fourth line after 30 seconds or so and began cycle work of their own.

That’s when Mitchell Chaffee dished the puck over to Oliver Chau in the corner. Chau found Anthony Del Gaizo wide open in front for the opening goal.

The Minutemen found themselves pinned in their own end for a considerable amount of time 14 minutes into the first period. Moments later, Patrik Demel found Jared Pike in the slot for the lamplighter to make it 1-1.

AIC benefitted off of the defensive breakdown from UMass, as John Leonard left Demel unattended to, which gave him the chance to slide over a clean pass to Pike.

“We pre-scouted that,” Carvel said of AIC’s goal. “We made it a major point to the team – this is what they do. Be ready for it. And we fall asleep and it’s in the back of our net.”

Pike’s goal became a microcosm of the first period for the Minutemen. Through the opening 20 minutes, the Minutemen looked a bit slow to start and that was exactly Carvel’s focus after the game.

“I didn’t think we were ready to start the game tonight,” Carvel said. “Our battle level was poor, and our discipline was worse. I think that’s why the first period was a pretty even game.”

The Minutemen spent much of Friday’s game in the box, as they finished with eight penalties and 27 total penalty minutes – many of those came from Anthony Del Gaizo’s five-minute major and disqualification for a hit to the head in the second period.

“When we weren’t in the box the last two periods, I thought we were playing well,” Carvel said. “But we couldn’t stay out of the box and that’s about as undisciplined or lopsided penalty minutes that we’ve been involved with in a long time.”

UMass welcomed back Marc Del Gaizo back on defense on Friday night and the praise was aplenty in the week leading up to the game.

Marc started, received a warm ovation and played the first shift of the game next to Matthew Kessel. That first shift was all he’d play, however, as he headed down the tunnel after quite a physical first shift.

Carvel had no extra update on Marc postgame.

Evan Marinofsky can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @emarinofsky.