With two minutes remaining in the second period of Saturday night’s game between the Massachusetts hockey team and Maine, UMass turned a tight, 1-0 game into what would finish at a 4-1 final.
The Minutemen (11-4-1, 6-3-1 Hockey East) struck for two goals within 18 seconds of each other to blow the game open and take a 3-0 lead into the third period.
“You got to continue to work and grind,” coach Greg Carvel said, “and have faith that eventually you’re going to break the dam and that’s exactly what happened.”
The first of the two goals came with 1:46 left in the second when Mitchell Chaffee, with UMass on the man-advantage, controlled a rebound in front of the net and sent the puck across the crease. The puck slid behind Maine (8-7-3, 4-6-2 HEA) goaltender Jeremy Swayman, missing the net, but found its way to the waiting stick of John Leonard who took a second to gather the puck before potting the Minutemen’s second goal of the game.
“I meant to go five-hole,” Chaffee said, “and it actually slid wide. But luckily [Leonard] was there right on the back door and he put it in.”
Just 18 seconds later, Jake Gaudet held the puck near the left faceoff dot. Gaudet then pivoted and fired a pass to the front of the net where Niko Hildenbrand jammed home his first goal of the season and stretched the UMass lead to 3-0.
“I think we just did a better job of getting the puck into the paint,” Carvel said. “We say the back post—we want to get the puck to the back post.”
The Black Bears would answer in the third period, but it was too little, too late. A Colin Felix penalty with 14:41 left in the game gave Maine the man advantage and they wasted no time capitalizing on the opportunity. Eight seconds into the 5-on-4 Adam Dawe scored to put the Black Bears on the board and cut the Minuteman lead to two.
The goal would be the only shot to beat Murray on the night.
Earning his second start in as many games, Murray stopped 23 of 24 Maine shots to secure a UMass victory. The Minuteman goalie wasn’t tested much through the first two periods, seeing only 11 shots and stopping them all. The Black Bears more than doubled their shot total in the third, tallying 13 including the shot that got them on the board.
“Its not too bad,” Murray said of the increase in shots in the third. “I’m used to it and I have my mental skills that I’ll do throughout the game to make sure I’m focused and I’m always watching the puck.”
The increase in shots and scoring chances coincided with UMass committing their only two penalties of the game in the third period. Maine doubled UMass’ time in the penalty box however as the Black Bears finished the game with eight penalty minutes.
For a struggling Minuteman power play unit, John Leonard’s second period goal was UMass’ second power play goal of the weekend. The Minutemen scored on two of their seven power play attempts on the weekend. The weekend’s 28.6 percent rate on the power play far outdoes the team’s 14.5 percent season average.
With Maine desperate for goals late in the third, the Black Bears pulled Swayman for the extra skater. With the puck in the Maine offensive zone, UMass forward Philip Lagunov won a puck battle and sent it the length of the ice where it would end up in the Black Bear’s empty net and give the Minutemen a 4-1 lead with 2:38 remaining.
Del Gaizo, in his second game back from injury, tied for the game-high in points with his two assists on Saturday. The first of the two opened the scoring as Del Gaizo fed Oliver Chau who ultimately made the pass to Mitchell Chaffee resulting in the game’s first goal. The second, also a secondary assist, came on Leonard’s power play goal as Del Gaizo took the shot to get the puck in front of the net.
With Saturday’s win the Minutemen captured two more much-needed Hockey East points on the weekend and now sit in second place in the conference.
“It’s a very solid weekend for our team,” Carvel said. “And for me as a coach, I saw a lot of things come together.”
“This weekend was a big step for us,” Chaffee said, “especially tonight.”
UMass takes to the ice once more in the season’s first half when they head to Brown next Tuesday for an out of conference matchup.
Noah Bortle can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @noah_bortle.