Chaffee’s hat trick powers No. 10 UMass to 4-0 win over UVM

UMass secures two Hockey East points on the road

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Chaffee’s hat trick powers No. 10 UMass to 4-0 win over UVM

Nina Walat

Nina Walat

Nina Walat

By Noah Bortle, Assistant Sports Editor

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Thursday, Massachusetts junior Mitchell Chaffee was nominated for the Hobey Baker award, college hockey’s most prestigious award. The forward wasted no time making his case with a hat trick in UMass’ 4-0 win over Vermont on Friday.

“It was a really complete road game for our crew,” coach Greg Carvel said of the win.

Chaffee struck first with 1:26 left in the first period. After the Minutemen (15-7-1, 8-4-1 Hockey East) lost control of the puck behind the net, Chaffee found himself in the slot with the loose puck. The junior wristed a shot, beating UVM (3-14-3, 0-10-1 HEA) goaltender Stefanos Lekkas’ glove for the first goal of the game.

The Catamounts clung to the one-goal disadvantage through the end of the first period and the early portion of the second, but Chaffee granted the Minutemen some breathing room with 13:34 left in the second period after Jack Suter’s shot was stopped by Lekkas’ pad. Chaffee gathered the rebound and deposited in the back of the UVM net for his second tally of the night.

In the third period, with the net empty, Chaffee outraced a Catamount defender to a puck in the offensive zone. With the defender draped on his back, Chaffee secured the hat trick with a shot while being pushed into the left post.

“He was deserving,” Carvel said of Chaffee’s hat trick. “He had a real good night.”

Chaffee’s three goals served as the winger’s 14th, 15th and 16th goals of the season.

UMass’ other Hobey Baker nominee impressed as well. John Leonard added to his gaudy scoring total this year with a third period tally to stretch the Minuteman lead to 3-0.

A Catamount turnover in the neutral zone followed by a stretch pass to Leonard on the blue line left the Amherst native with just Lekkas to beat. He did just that, with a quick release to beat the UVM goaltender blocker side.

“It was really good anticipation by him,” Carvel said. “He read the defenseman and used his quickness and strength to create that breakaway. And then, he’s as good a finisher as there is at this level.”

A pair of Catamount power plays in the first half of the contest gave UVM a chance to hang in the game. The UMass penalty kill stopped any hopes the Catamounts had of getting on the board, holding the UVM man-advantage scoreless on the night.

The other half of the Minutemen special teams didn’t find as much success as the power play unit went 0-for-4 on the night.

“We went into the game and Vermont kind of changed up the way they were killing and that kind of threw us off,” Carvel said. “We pre-scout and we’re expecting certain things and they switched it up, so it’s going to come.”

Matt Murray stopped all 25 of the shots he faced Friday night, recording his third shutout of the season.

“Really solid goaltending,” Carvel said of Murray’s performance, “and our back end was outstanding.”

UMass made it easy on the goaltender much of the night, controlling possession and ultimately outshooting the Catamounts 35-25.

UVM did its best to break through on the scoreboard, going as far as pulling Lekkas for the final two minutes in lieu of the extra attacker. The man-advantage yielded no goals despite generating a few dangerous opportunities for the Catamounts.

“It was a really solid game all the way around by our team tonight,” Carvel said, “so I’m very, very happy. I know Vermont doesn’t have a lot of victories, but they’re a solid team. We had to come in here ready to earn the victory and we did.”

The Minutemen will try for the weekend sweep over UVM Saturday night. Puck drop is set for 7:05 p.m.

Noah Bortle can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @noah_bortle.