Saturday Recap; UMass To Play BC In Hockey East Quarters

As last night went along all the pieces into place for UMass.  Maine had beat UNH earlier in the day, Lowell was beating Providence, and halfway through the third period the Minutemen were beating Merrimack 2-1.  If that score had held up it would’ve allowed UMass to finish tied with UNH for 6th place in the league and given them the seventh seed in the Hockey East playoffs.  However, after mostly outplaying the Warriors up to that point, the wheels came off and UMass would surrender three goals in the span of six minutes and give up any chance of finishing higher than 8th in the league.  A disappointing way to end an exciting weekend for the Minutemen.

Up to that point UMass played extremely well.  Though they gave up an early goal overall the defense did well in that first period and limited the Warriors to just five shots.  Then with the final seconds ticking off the clock, T.J. Syner had one of the better individual efforts you could imagine.  He picked up the puck in his own zone, turned on the jets, went around and through the Merrimack defensemen as if they were pylons, and scored on Joe Canatta for one of the prettiest shorthanded goals you’ll see.  That allowed UMass to pull even going into the first intermission.  The second period would be pretty even but again in the final seconds Steven Guzzo would deflect in a Colin Shea shot with a half a minute left in the period to give the Minutemen the lead.

The score would stay 2-1 until defensive breakdowns gave the game over to the Warriors.  With under 10 minutes left Merrimack would rush into the zone and Adam Phillips, playing for just the second time in nine games, would be unable to get a stick on the puck or a body on the player and an easy cross ice pass then turns into a power play goal.  About four minutes later Conor Allen would get caught too far in his own, standing inside the crease, and Shawn Bates would convert a pass from behind the net to get the go ahead goal.  Merrimack would score an insurance goal to go up 4-2 on a two on one rush on a shot that goaltender Steve Mastalerz would probably want back.  Danny Hobbs would get one back by intelligently batting a puck out of mid-air, waiting until it fell below of the crossbar.  But that was it.  Merrimack was victorious and UMass was unable at hold onto the third period lead that would’ve given them a feel good 6th place finish (if there is such a thing).

It is what it is.  I think everyone, players and fans alike, would’ve liked the team to finish out the game with a win and carry some momentum into next week’s playoffs.  They’re going to need it.  While the team should have some confidence since they beat Boston College twice this season, both of those games came at the Mullins Center.  Plus, the Eagles come into the playoffs winning 11 in a row.  The regular season is over but now is when the stakes are really high.  Hopefully the Minutemen learned enough during the season, right up to last night’s third period breakdowns, that will give them the tools to pull off a tremendous upset next weekend.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game
Syner’s shorthanded goal was a thing of beauty and just what the team needed at that moment to grab the momentum in the game.  Simply an amazing individual effort.

Dick Baker cites penalties as something that put UMass at a big disadvantage last night.

Here’s the recap from the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune.

Groupon currently has a deal where you can get tickets for Friday and Saturday’s games for just $10 each. (lower bowl tickets are normally $20)

Here are the Hockey East matchups:

#1 Boston College vs #8 Massachusetts
#2 Lowell vs #7 Providence
#3 Boston University vs #6 New Hampshire
#4 Maine vs #5 Merrimack