For the first time in a long time UMass was able to put together a solid effort in two consecutive nights. Mid-November was really the last time this happened. Ideally when you have two solid games in a row, you get a couple wins out of it as well. Due to some superb goaltending on Friday night, that didn’t happen. But it is good to see the team realizes the desperate situation they’re in and are responding to it appropriately. Because frankly anything less than 100% at this time is not going to cut it.
It would’ve been easy to come out a little flat after picking up the loss on Friday despite completely outplaying the Wildcats. That didn’t happen though they still gave UNH the early lead on a shorthanded goal when they not only gave up a breakaway but were unable to clear out the puck after Steve Mastalerz made the initial save. However UMass would take the lead thanks to scoring a couple goals off rebounds and continuing to hammer away at the puck, the first by Kevin Czepiel, the second by Mike Marcou. Joel Hanley would score shortly after Marcou but UNH would get one back at the end of the third that setup a pretty tense third period with the two teams going back and forth and the goaltenders coming up with some big saves. Conor Sheary would get the insurance goal with just over two minutes left, setup by Branden Gracel who returned to the lineup after sitting for two games.
Despite Kevin Boyle looking pretty good in net the night before, Toot Cahoon still decided to switch things up in net and Steve Mastalerz looked very good in the start. What was especially impressive was how aggressively he was working to cover up rebounds and loose pucks in front of him. This really limited the number of second chances for the Wildcats. It’s also important because all weekend it seemed like the defensemen in front of him were a second late in putting those pucks on their stick or into the corner.
We’re in for an interesting two days of hockey next weekend. Maine did to Northeastern last night what they did to UMass last Friday up in Orono, putting up seven goals on the Huskies and gaining the win. That puts us back right where we were to begin the weekend. Northeastern and UMass are tied for 8th place with 20 points. Since the season series was even and they both have eight conference wins, it comes down to the third tiebreaker which is record against the first place team. Right now that is Boston College who have a two point lead over BU and a four point lead over Lowell. With UMass’ 2-1-0 record against the Eagles, they own that tiebreaker. UMass fans will be in the uncomfortable position of rooting for the Eagles to maintain that lead in the league while cheering on the Terriers to beat the Huskies in their games next weekend. UMass on the other hand will be facing a Merrimack team that has a lot to play for. Not only are they fighting for home ice, just one point behind Maine for 4th place, but they’re fighting for an NCAA berth, currently tied for 14th in the Pairwise. The Warriors and Minutemen both have something to battle for. At the very least it should be some great hockey.
Fear The Triangle Player of the Game
Joel Hanley’s goal in the second period was his second of the weekend and ended up being Saturday’s game winner. He finished the game +2 and has been one of UMass’ best players in the second half of the season.
I realized that I forgot to include my POTG in Friday’s writeup. Conor Sheary gets the nod thanks to his goal and assist. He’d go on to add another goal last night for his first multi-goal weekend since the Florida tournament.
The Minutemen responded to the challenge says the Republican game story.
On the UNH side, the Wildcats suffered a letdown says their local paper. Interesting to note though, UNH coach said after the game that he thought his team played better last night than on Friday.
PlayoffStatus.com now gives the Minutemen a 54% chance of making the playoffs.
Congrats to former Minuteman Paul Dainton who picked up his first AHL shutout last night.