For the first time since 2002 Massachusetts hockey will not be part of the Hockey East playoffs. Last night’s 4-3 overtime loss to Merrimack combined with Maine’s win over New Hampshire locks UMass into a disappointing 9th place finish for the season.
UMass was almost able to overcome a 2-0 deficit with three goals late in the third period, but Merrimack’s Connor Toomey would end up picking up the game winner 1:45 into overtime. The game started out a lot like the last time the teams played in North Andover. The Warriors put a ton of shots on the UMass goaltender, this time being Steve Mastalerz who was able to make the start in his hometown. Merrimack would get 19 shots on goal in the first and Mastalerz kept UMass in the game by stopping 18 of them. The players in front of him did a much better job in the following periods however, both in terms of defense and puck possession, and were able to limit Merrimack to just 13 shots for the rest of regulation.
Merrimack would take a 2-0 lead early in the third and things looked dire, especially with Maine leading up in Durham. But the coaching staff was monitoring the scores and pulled Mastalerz for an extra attacker with over five minutes left and UMass on the power play. Shane Walsh would find the back of the net with just under four minutes left but the Warriors scored almost immediately to regain the two goal lead. Conor Sheary would answer with a power play goal under a minute later to again bring the Minutemen within one. Senior Rocco Carzo would end up being the hero by tying it with just 41 seconds left. However in overtime Merrimack, fighting for home ice, would not be satisfied with just a tie, and attacked UMass from the start. 1:45 into the extra frame UMass’ playoff hopes ended.
I admire the fact that the team did not give up last night. I wish they could’ve played the beginning of the game with the same kind of energy and desperation they showed at the end. But with their backs truly against the wall they responded and almost pulled off the late game heroics. But they came up short. In terms of both the game and the season. I’ll get more into my thoughts about missing the playoffs for the first time in 11 years next week when I wrap up the season (and the blog). But for now I’d just like to ask that if you can make it to the Mullins Center tonight, please do. It will be the last time to watch UMass hockey until next October, a chance to thank the team for their hard work this season, and the opportunity to salute the seniors for their contributions over the past four years.
Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Rocco Carzo
The senior co-captain’s late goal extended UMass’ playoff chances, if only for another couple minutes.