UMass women’s hockey’s three-day weekend out west results in a 2-1 record

With a depleted lineup, the Minutewomen step up offensively to get wins against ASU and GCU

Daily+Collegian

Daily Collegian

By Shanti Furtado, Collegian Staff

After over a month-long absence, the Massachusetts women’s hockey team proved to be just as hot as the climate it was visiting. UMass hit the road for a three-game series in Arizona this past weekend, winning one of its two games against Arizona State University and coming out victorious against Grand Canyon University to close out the trip.

No. 9 UMass had its fair share of challenges going into its Jan. 7 game against ASU. Not only did it face the rust due to a long stretch between its last games, six Minutewomen were unable to play, leaving noticeable voids in their typical lineup. The unranked Sun Devils had five players themselves out on COVID-19 protocol, speaking to the widespread outbreak affecting the country and college athletics.

2:42 into the first period of its first game against ASU, UMass’ Sammie Mirasolo lit the lamp for her second goal of the season to put the Minutewomen on the board. After a strong presence in the defensive zone, UMass gained possession of the puck with winger Danielle Craig saucing the puck at the red line to Joanna Dustin, finding Mirasolo to tap it in past Sun Devils goaltender, Karsyn Hellman.

After neck and neck play for the remainder of the first 20 minutes of play, Arizona State made it a tie game at the start of the second period. With a penalty on ASU’s Sheridan Gloyd for checking 58 seconds into the period, Hayley Martin’s shot on the shorthanded breakaway just crossed the goal line past UMass’ Casey Marshall to make the score 1-1.

UMass has nine graduating seniors on its roster, one of which being leading goal scorer, Katerina Nikolopoulos. With seven minutes remaining in the second period, after a poor pass in the attacking zone for ASU, UMass’ Brenna Cox gained possession of the puck. Sending a long pass to captain Holly Russell, the puck found its way to Nikolopoulos who converted the go-ahead goal to open the Minutewomen’s scoring in the second period. This notched Nikolopoulos’ 14th point of the season.

From there, the scoring game was all UMass. Three minutes after Nikolopoulos’ goal, a turnover on the UMass defensive blueline, led to a cross ice rush for Nicole Maimonis, finding the connection with Marissa Gregory to get to the back of the Sun Devils’ net.

To close out the second period with nine seconds remaining, UMass went on the penalty kill off a cross checking call against Regan Paterson. This marked a third period riddled with penalties – a staggering seven of the night’s 10 penalties occurring during the remaining third of the game.

Still, the Minutewomen’s ultimate 15 shots versus the Sun Devils eight during the third proved to be the difference maker. With the teams being so tightly contested in chances on net for the first two periods, the final 20 minutes ensured UMass’ dominance.

Nikolopoulos continued her strong play in an attacking zone push, driving a diagonal feed to Russell, who released a high shot deflecting the left crossbar and in late in the third period to earn the Minutewomen a 4-1 victory.

UMass’ penalty kill was one of the hallmarks of the first game of its series against ASU, killing all five penalties faced. All the while, its power play did not fare as productive. Unable to capitalize on its own five chances throughout the 60 minutes, both teams’ strong defensive presence could not be ignored.

The Minutewomen’s Jan. 8 game against ASU proved to be more of a challenge – the Sun Devils out for vengeance to not let the Minutewomen sweep their series. The home team struck first; ASU’s Jillian Ketchum adding her 11th of the season off a backhand shot through the five hole of UMass’ Casey Marshall.

19:11 into the first period, Ketchum let her presence known once again. With a man advantage due to a tripping call on UMass’ Marissa Gregory, Ketchum found the loose puck and was able to sneak it to the back of the net for her 23rd point of the season.

Even with a second period plagued with penalties, three for UMass and one for ASU, the Minutewomen answered back. After a lasting attacking zone presence, ASU’s Hellman felt the visiting team’s pressure with back-to-back shots resulting in the puck being chipped in by UMass’ Saorise Connolly off the stick of Russell.

The momentum didn’t stop there for the Minutewomen. On the powerplay, UMass’ Danielle Craig curved a wrap-around shot, with Mirasolo posted at the opposite goalpost to send the loose puck to the back door of the net, marking a strong weekend offensively for the freshman forward.

The game was cat and mouse for most of the 60 minutes, ASU answered back 9:33 into the third period. On an attacking zone rush, Samanatha Murphy’s snipe fired past the glove of Marshall, marking her 17th of the season and the fifth and final goal of this game. The score 2-3 ASU.

Though the shots on goal were comparable between the two teams, UMass sitting at 32 shots and ASU with 31 at the end of regulation, the quality of those chances and more so the timing of which, was the difference maker for the Sun Devils. Having come out of the first 20 minutes up two goals, the Minutewomen were forced to play catch up for the remainder of the game, something that has proven to be a challenge for the team this season.

The third and final game of their road trip took the Minutewomen to No. 13 Grand Canyon University on Jan. 9. UMass was the first and only team to mark the scoreboard. 12:05 into the first period, with assists from Nikolopoulos and Connolly, Rachel Difraia’s power play shot past GCU’s goaltender Elsa Kurtz secured her first goal of the season.

Scoreless throughout the next 48 minutes of play, UMass was far from silent, ultimately putting up 35 shots as opposed to GCU’s 19. Still, the Minutewomen racked up 18 penalty minutes, adding to the prior 20 accumulated minutes from Friday and Saturday’s matchups. The goaltending for UMass continues to be one of the strongest elements of this team, Mary Honan recording an impressive third shutout of the season. Starting goaltender Casey Marshall also had a strong weekend in net, saving 62 of 66 shots faced.

The Minutewomen take a week off from games before their next series on the road, bringing them back out west. In another three consecutive day series, UMass sets to face off against Colorado State University on Jan. 21 for a 7:45 p.m. MST (9:45 p.m. EST) puck drop, followed by 12:00 p.m. EST games at the University of Colorado on the 22nd and 23rd to close out the weekend.

Potential links to stream these games can be found on the Minutewomen’s Twitter as the dates approach.

Shanti Furtado can be reached at [email protected] and followed her on Twitter @shantifurtado.