No. 10 UMass wins defensive battle 3-0 over Quinnipiac in Hamden

Matt Murray made 24 stops to record the shutout

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No. 10 UMass wins defensive battle 3-0 over Quinnipiac in Hamden

By Liam Flaherty, Assistant Sports Editor

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The Massachusetts hockey team fed off the play of junior netminder Matt Murray to down Quinnipiac 3-0 on Friday night at the People’s United Center.

In the first half of the non-conference series, Murray made 24 stops and did not allow a goal. It marks the sixth shutout of the junior’s career with No. 10 UMass and sets a new program record.

“He was really solid,” coach Greg Carvel said following the win. “Not that he had to make a lot of spectacular saves, but we gave up some odd man breaks and semi-breakaways, a couple of situations like that, and he shut the door. He looked really solid in practice all week and carried it over from last week at Merrimack. He’s riding high right now.”

Cal Kiefiuk, Bobby Trivigno and Mitchell Chaffee potted the goals for the Minutemen (9-3-1, 4-3-1 Hockey East), which, backed by Murray, led to their third road win of the season after some early troubles playing away from the Mullins Center.

UMass also blocked 23 shots in the action.

“Really solid road victory,” Carvel said. “I know Quinnipiac doesn’t have the record they usually have, but it’s a very tough place to play in and win, so it was a very consistent 60 minutes. Good effort backed by really good goaltending, and special teams was a difference maker tonight.”

The Minutemen went 1-for-2 on their power play opportunities. The Bobcats (6-7-1, 2-3-1 Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference) went 0-for-3.

The game was scoreless after 20 minutes. The Minutemen did more defending than they did attacking in the early going, but the offense began to find its rhythm as the period progressed.

For a team that’s seen its fair share of penalty troubles early on, UMass escaped the first without a whistle. Murray had a big say in the scoreless start with eight stops, while Quinnipiac netminder Keith Petruzzelli went largely untested in the first period with few quality bids from the Minutemen.

The defensive battle kept on in the second.

Murray continued to be solid in net, denying any threats that went his way, while the defense in front of him did all it could to help him out – blocking 18 shots throughout the first two periods.

Midway through the middle frame, the Alberta, Canada native made his biggest stop of the night as the Bobcats put the pressure on, turning away a Logan Britt shot that dinged off his face mask.

After the big-time save, Kiefiuk made his scoring presence felt for the second straight game – assisted to his third goal in his last four periods by his linemates on the all-freshman third line.

With Eric Faith and Reed Lebster cycling the puck along the boards behind Petruzzelli, Lebster sent it to the left point where Gianfranco Cassaro, another freshman, was waiting. Cassaro took the puck, assessed the situation and lobbed a shot towards the net, where No. 7 was stationed. As he’s done several times this season, Kiefiuk used his position in front to tip the shot into the net.

“I think he’s going to be a consistent goal scorer,” Carvel said. “That’s his sixth goal, he’s got a lot of his goals by deflections, probably at least three goals where he’s deflecting point shots, which is an asset that we haven’t really had here – we don’t deflect point shots very well, but he and Lebster are two kids that are going to bring that element to our team.”

The Bobcats went on the first power play of the game in the final minute of the second period, but Murray refused to budge. After a pair of big saves on the penalty kill, John Leonard made two full effort plays to get it out of the zone and ensure the 1-0 lead remained intact after two.

Still holding onto their one-goal edge with seven minutes left in the third, Bobby Trivigno cleaned up the hard work of Colin Felix and Chaffee to jam a puck home past Petruzzelli inside the crease.

2-0 UMass.

After a hit by Anthony Del Gaizo went uncalled late in the third, Quinnipiac went to the power play and pulled Petruzzelli for the extra skater with four and a half minutes remaining.

Murray denied any initial danger on the 6-on-4 and, down two skaters, Chaffee ended it with a short-handed empty-netter from center ice to seal the deal and catapult UMass to a 3-0 road win.

“We got the power play late in the game and then we take a poor penalty and have to kill, they pull their goalie and the guys had to take a beating,” Carvel said. “But I just thought it was a really solid game by us. The last two games are a really good sign for me that we go on the road in tough places to play where you know it’s not going to be a high-scoring affair, where you’re going to have to bide your time and just defend well – that’s the sign of a team that’s maturing. The ability to win tight games on the road is a real positive.”

The two teams go back at it Saturday night at the Mullins Center. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m.

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