Well the Massachusetts hockey team had lost a few games in dramatic fashion this season so it’s only fitting that they picked up their first conference in the same way last night. Darren Rowe continues to make the most of the second chance he’s gotten under the new coaching staff with his game winning goal just over three minutes into overtime on a UMass power play. By doing so the Minutemen not only picked up their first Hockey East points but handed New Hampshire their first loss of the young season.
It was a bit of a strange game with the teams taking the initial part of the game to essentially feel each other out. I felt UMass was the better team for much of the game but it was the Wildcats who got on the board first with one of those killer goals with just seconds left at the end of the first period. However the Minutemen came out in the second and continued to press UNH as the two teams traded scoring chances. It would pay off as UMass would tie the game just over halfway through the second period. From there it would remain tied through the end of regulation setting up Rowe’s heroics at the end.
Though Rowe deservingly receives the main accolades from this game, there were many who played key roles last night. With Joel Hanley out with an injury UMass would need the rest of the defense to step up in his absence, and that’s exactly what happened. UNH came into the game as the highest scoring team in the league but was held to just one goal and 26 total shots. Conor Allen continues to be the anchor for the defense, providing excellent blueline play in addition to contributing quite a bit to the offense for the team as well. Last night he assisted on both UMass goals, had five total shots, and even carried the puck up the ice in a few rushes into the UNH zone. Kevin Boyle wasn’t tested too much as the defense in front of him kept the Wildcat forwards away, but he did look good when he needed to make plays and had an unbelievable save as the final seconds of regulation ticked off to allow for the overtime heroics.
Conor Sheary looked good and picked up his first goal of the season on a quick wrist shot that beat UNH goaltender Casey DeSmith. Sheary was also a perfect 7 for 7 in the faceoff circle. Shane Walsh continues to play very well, providing a ton of energy on the ice, making some hard hits, and making solid contributions on offense. Walsh had 3 shots on the night but it was his awareness and cross-ice pass in overtime which setup Rowe’s game winner. Rocco Carzo continues to be a leader on the ice with his key two-way play this season. If there is anything for UMass fans to worry about coming off this game it would probably be the play of Adam Phillips and Mike Pereira. Phillips looks good at times but overall his performance on defense has been inconsistent and the momentary breakdowns have usually been costly. Pereira was looked upon to be the star for UMass this season but so far through five games he has yet to register a point and is a –4 on the season.
Last night was exactly what this team needed. Not only were they able to hand a top ten team their first loss of the season, but it was how they did it that was important. They were able to reverse fortunes from earlier games and it was the Minutemen who won the game with the last goal scored. Defense and goaltending played extremely well despite missing a key player in Joel Hanley. UNH’s power play was held to just two shots and no goals in three chances. And the team was able to get a goal from Conor Sheary which will be needed if they want to succeed in future games. The trick now will be to carry over the momentum and confidence they gained last night into tomorrow’s matchup with #1 Boston College. It won’t be easy, especially since the team hasn’t won there in five season, but I like their chances a lot more after what they accomplished last night.
Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Darren Rowe
Rowe’s performance is one of the enjoyable storylines early on this season, playing the hero last night and having three total goals on the season. What’s important for Rowe and his battle to dress every night is that his defensive play has noticeably improved from previous seasons. While it was Rowe who buried the puck high past DeSmith in overtime, a sticktap goes to Conor Allen and Shane Walsh who got the puck onto his stick.
The game winning goal, coming just after a time out, worked just how Coach Micheletto drew it up, per the Gazette game story.
Rowe says the coach deserves an assist in the Republican’s recap.
Here are the Key Takeaways via College Hockey News.
The Boston Herald also has their coverage of the game.