UMass gives up three in third period, falls 4-2 to Denver Friday night

Minutemen drop first round of Frozen Four rematch to Pioneers

Collegian+File+Photo

Collegian File Photo

By Evan Marinofsky, Collegian Staff

Both teams had this game circled on their calendars since the schedules were released during the summer.

In the Frozen Four rematch between the Massachusetts and Denver hockey teams, No. 7 Denver (12-4-3, 3-3-2 NCHC) scored three in the third period to prevail victorious in a 4-2 win on Friday night.

“I think it was a sloppy game,” head coach Greg Carvel said. “The altitude was something that was obviously difficult for our guys. We got a lot of guys that looked winded. Bottom line was we weren’t very disciplined, took too many penalties and I think that really wore our guys out in a situation where we needed to keep guys as fresh as possible.

“With a lot of penalties, it was hard for our guys to maintain their energy.”

No. 9 UMass (13-5-1, 6-3-1 Hockey East) finished with five rulebreakers, with one being a five-minute major and game misconduct.

With a little over two minutes remaining in the game, both clubs found themselves tied 2-2. It all came down to which way the puck bounced and on Friday night, the game-winner bounced in favor of Denver.

Cole Guttman corralled the puck in the offensive corner. He turned and threw a backhand in Filip Lindberg’s direction. The shot surprised the Finnish netminder, went off his side and into the back of the net to make it 3-2 late in the contest.

Denver added an empty-netter with 1:03 to play in the game to extend the lead to 4-2.

“All I know was the shot was from a very bad angle,” Carvel said of the eventual game-winner. “Those usually don’t go in.”

Despite the penalties and misplays, UMass actually potted the first goal of the game.

After a scoreless first period, Matthew Kessel slapped one toward the Pioneer net off a faceoff win. The puck found its way through a plethora of both squad’s guys and into the back of the net to give the Minutemen a 1-0 lead just under five minutes into the middle 20. It was Kessel’s sixth goal of the season.

The UMass lead wouldn’t last too long, as roughly four minutes later, Slava Demin ripped one past Lindberg’s glove off a pass out front to knot things up at one apiece.

“Our defenseman goes in the corner and falls down,” Carvel said of Colin Felix’s play on Denver’s first lamplighter. “It’s tough for those wingers to get back in those shot lanes. It’s tough when one guy is taken out of the equation. Those other two guys, ideally, they find a way to block it or somebody finds a way. I don’t think the goaltender saw the puck because we were in his way but didn’t block the shot.”

That goal greatly shifted the momentum in Denver’s favor. The Pioneers dominated the next four minutes, capped off with a Felix turnover leading to Lindberg’s biggest save of the night.

Carvel saw enough and called a timeout to stop the momentum from swinging too far against the Minutemen and due to the recent icing call, he also wanted the defending legs to be fresh.

“We didn’t manage the puck very well and guys didn’t want to keep it on their stick and make plays,” Carvel said of the message during the timeout.

The message and timing of the stoppage worked. Just 29 seconds after the timeout, the trio of Bobby Trivigno, Niko Hildenbrand and Cal Kiefiuk unleashed mayhem on their forecheck, disabling Denver’s defense, which led to Jake McLaughlin being wide open in the slot to shoot home his first of the season and make it 2-1 UMass.

The Minutemen entered the final 20 minutes with the lead but five minutes in, Denver tied things back up when Demin walked the point and threw one towards the UMass net. The puck was tipped on the way through by Tyson McLellan.

It was the start of Denver’s comeback and the third period implosion that Carvel certainly wasn’t a fan of.

“It’s rare that you lose with a lead going into the third period,” he said. “You need to play a strong defensive game. So that’s a frustrating thing that we don’t do very often. I don’t know the last time we lost a game going into the third period with a lead.”

Along with his goal, McLaughlin found himself amongst two of the game’s biggest controversies.

The first came in the opening 20 minutes when he threw a shot past Denver goalie Magnus Chrona. But the play was blown dead because Jack Suter’s stick was caught in the goaltender’s pads and he was ruled unable to play his position.

“The referee said he should’ve blown the whistle sooner,” Carvel said of the explanation he got. “The goalie was incapacitated and wasn’t able to play his position and he said he should’ve blown the play dead earlier.”

McLaughlin’s second incident came late in the second period when he was called for a five-minute major and game misconduct after an elbow to the head of Jake Durflinger. Carvel agreed with the call.

Overall, despite losing the lead in the third period, the sloppy play and pesky altitude, Carvel had one main takeaway from Friday’s loss.

“If Denver is one of the top teams in the country, then we’re not that far off.”

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