UMass dominated the first period of play, and Northeastern couldn’t catch up

The Minutemen got out to a 3-0 lead through 20 minutes and never looked back

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Nina Walat/Daily Collegian

By Colin McCarthy, Collegian Staff

The first period of hockey can be a slow, feeling out process at times. That was not the case when the Massachusetts hockey team took on No. 13 Northeastern on Saturday night.

Having met a day earlier, No. 9 UMass (8-3-1, 8-3-1 Hockey East) was already familiar with the Huskies (3-3-2, 3-3-2 HEA). In their first meeting, the Minutemen came away with a 4-3 win on the road.

On Saturday, Northeastern came out fast, and got the first scoring opportunities of the night with back-to-back shots on Matt Murray. That surge was short-lived, as UMass pushed back fast, and in a big way.

Just over two minutes into the game, Minutemen coach Greg Carvel sent his fourth line out on the ice. Philip Lagunov won the draw for UMass, and a few seconds later Anthony Del Gaizo found Jerry Harding in front, who beat Huskies goaltender Connor Murphy to grab an early 1-0 lead.

“I thought the real development this weekend was our fourth line,” Carvel said. “I thought Jerry Harding and Anthony Del Gaizo had really good weekends. Jerry chips in a goal which is huge, first goal of the game and we got it early.”

A few minutes later, while the Minutemen and Northeastern were skating 4-on-4, Matthew Keseel was tripped up on a breakaway attempt, leading to a penalty shot. And with some fancy stick work, the St. Louis Blues draft pick slid the puck past Murphy, giving UMass an early 2-0 lead.

“I never questioned giving it to anybody else. I like giving the penalty shot to the guy who’s earned it,” Carvel said. “That was an easy decision to let him take that penalty shot.”

With the Huskies back on their heels, the Minutemen continued to push the ice to extend their lead. But Northeastern was slowly starting to take back the momentum, and a seemingly wide-open shot on the doorstep could have changed the complexion of the period. But Matt Murray had other plans.

Instead of making it a 2-1 game nearing the end of the period, the Huskies were denied by a diving glove save from Murray, which gave UMass an extra spark of energy with the first 20 minutes winding down.

“That save in the first period was one of the best saves I’ve seen at this level,” Carvel said. “He had a couple huge saves.”

And with that spark, the Minutemen extended their lead with less than three minutes to play in the first, courtesy of a Zac Jones shot from the point that found its way through heavy traffic up front and into the back of the net.

UMass came out of the gate red hot, and controlled the play for the majority of the first 20 minutes. During that time, Northeastern was simply unable to match UMass’ intensity.

“I liked our energy,” Carvel said of the fast start. “We were playing fast and trying to be heavy… I really liked our game.”

Coming out of the first period with a 3-0 lead gave the Minutemen complete control of the game, and allowed some insurance for the remaining two frames. Even though the Huskies stormed back in the third, they could not overcome the deficit that UMass created early in the contest.

In the end, the Minutemen hung on for a 5-3 win, sweeping the weekend and extending their win streak to six games, thanks to their dominant first period performance.

Colin McCarthy can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @colinmccarth_DC.