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Friday Recap; UMass Clinches a Playoff Berth

Fans got to see just about everything you could’ve wanted at last night’s last home game of the season.  For much of the contest it was a tight, physical, dramatic game with only one goal scored in the first two periods and Merrimack tying the game almost immediately to start the third.  But UMass fans, due to some out of the ordinary circumstances, got to see the blowout they hoped for that allowed senior fan favorite Kevin Moore to make an appearance in the game.  And in the end, led by their seniors, the Minutemen gained another win over a ranked team and was able to clinch a playoff berth.

You cannot say enough about the play of the seniors.  It was quite apparent from the start that this group did not want their season to end tonight up at Merrimack.  With just seconds remaining in a scoreless first period Danny Hobbs was able to deflect a Joel Hanley to give UMass a critical end of period goal and the lead in the locker room for the first intermission.  I didn’t see it until watching the highlights (2:05 mark) this morning but it appears that Hobbs also makes an incredible play to save a Merrimack goal during the second period as well.   T.J. Syner would score what would ultimately be the game winner to break a 1-1 tie in the third thanks to a perfect pass across the slot by Conor Allen.  Darren Rowe, who has made the most of his second chance with the team in recent weeks, added an insurance goal with over five minutes left when he was left all alone at the top of the slot and put a nice wrist shot in the back of the net.

From there things would get weird.  Merrimack ended up pulling goaltender Joe Canatta following Rowe’s goal with 5:32 left since they could not afford a loss in their battle for home ice or for an at large NCAA bid.  Branden Gracel and Kevin Czepiel both took advantage of this with a couple long empty net goals that made it 5-1.  Then it was time to free Kevin Moore.  After the empty net goals the anticipation that Moore would get in was starting to get the crowd buzzing and it was at the top of players’ minds as well.  Kevin Boyle came to the bench when “Holyoke” gave UMass the four goal lead and just stared at Toot Cahoon waiting to be replaced.  Toot sent him back.  Then with 1:35 left the change was made and Moore was able to be rewarded and honored for all his hard work with the team.  The crowd, which had signs and pictures of Moore throughout the Mullins,  cheered loud for him during the pregame ceremonies, and had already begun chanting his name minutes before, erupted.  In the end Moore played for over a minute of half and was untested, keeping his perfect 0.00 goals against average and 1.000 save percentage intact.  As someone who has seen countless UMass hockey games, it was one of the more memorable moments in the program’s history.

This game was highlighted by the seniors with the offense from Hobbs and Syner, Moore’s big moment, and some very solid play by Mike Marcou, but overall it was a total team effort.  Kevin Boyle looked very solid in net and I thought he was moving very well in the crease to get good positioning throughout.  Gracel continues to look good in his return and finished the game with a goal, an assist, and a +3 rating.  The team continues to get key minutes out of the third line of Rocco Carzo, Troy Power, and Pat Kiley.  Normally I’d be unhappy with a player taking three penalties as Oleg Yevenko did, but they were “effective” penalties for lack of a better word.  Merrimack was taking some liberties throughout the game and Yevenko’s actions kept the Warriors from getting out of hand.  In the end UMass was able to not only keep the Warriors’ power play off the board but kept them from getting an shots on the extra man advantage whatsoever.

So with the win UMass can take it easy tonight and just wait for the playoffs to start next weekend, right?  Not exactly.  A win tonight in North Andover coupled with a Providence loss at Lowell will give the Minutemen 7th place in the standings.  Technically a win, Friar loss, and New Hampshire loss to Maine will allow UMass to finish tied with UNH for 6th, but the Wildcats own the tiebreaker.  Regardless UMass fans should be checking the scoreboard to see how those other two games transpire.  They’ll also be seeing how things play out at the top of the standings as UMass still could end up playing Boston College, Boston University, or Lowell next weekend depending on tonight’s results.  It won’t be easy to gain a win in North Andover however.  As I mentioned in my preview UMass has not won in that building in five years.  The Warriors will obviously be frustrated by last night’s loss and emotions will be high as they honor their own seniors, including star Joe Canatta.  Plus the Warriors can still gain home ice for next weekend and are essentially the last team out of the NCAAs right now.  Merrimack has a lot to play for, but hopefully the Minutemen realize they do too.  If anything it would be good to get another win and get some momentum going into the playoffs next weekend.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game
Only fitting that this one goes to a senior and it does in the form of captain T.J. Syner who scored the game winning goal and also made the pass to an open Rowe in the slot that led to that goal.  Syner was everywhere doing everything last night.

Fear The Triangle Fans of the Game
Stick tap to The Bench Crew who started the social media phenomenon that was #freemoore.   It’s great to see student fans with so much spirit support the team and the players the way they did.  I don’t say this a lot, but I was really proud of the student section last night.  I thought they were great representatives of the university.

Matt Vautour highlights Syner’s play in his game recap.  He also has a side story on Moore.

Dick Baker described the game as “storybook”.

Visit the Mack Report for all the coverage from the Warrior side of things.

With UMass’ win and Northeastern’s loss, the lights went off on the Huskies’ playoff hopes.

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5 Comments

  1. Anonymous

     /  March 3, 2012

    As Kevin Moore’s older brothe, i can not thank all of you tnough for your years of support for my brother and the program.

    Like

    • Glad to. I’ve heard nothing but great things about your brother and his contributions to the program. Thanks for reading over the years.

      Like

  2. Anonymous

     /  March 4, 2012

    go umass – kill b.c.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Like

  3. Anonymous

     /  March 4, 2012

    I can not agree more a senior that didn’t get much PT honored at his last game on the home ice is awesome. Congrats Mr. Moore and thank you for the contributions made to the program. WELL DESERVED!!!!!! I love the fact that Don Cherry now has some competition….lol. Thanks Rocks22 for taking the time to do the blog. I do have an interest as my nephew plays goal for you guys and am proud to say that he wears a rememberance to my wonderful mother on the back of his helmet. Thank you Kevin for all that you have done and always remember she is with you through good and bad, wins and losses and be the best you can be BOYLE PRIDE,,,kick BC’s ASS!!!!!! Play your best and good will happen… GO MINUTEMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Chris Boyle

    Like

    • Again, more than happy to play a small part in getting Kevin some of the well deserved praise he deserves. Thanks for reading FTT!

      Like

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