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Recap ▲ UMass Opens Season With A Sweep of Colorado College

The Massachusetts hockey program is off to its best start since 2009-10 with an opening weekend sweep of the Colorado College Tigers of the NCHC in Colorado Springs.  The Minutemen kicked off the season with a 6-3 victory on Friday night, highlighted by freshman Austin Plevy scoring a hat trick in his UMass debut.  On Saturday Plevy would score the game-winner in a wild game that saw the team score 4 goals in the 3rd period to comeback from an earlier 3-0 deficit.

The team got off to a bit of a slow start on Friday with the Tigers controlling most of the play in the opening stanza.  Colorado College would outshoot the Minutemen 14-7 in that first period Friday, but some solid goaltending from sophomore Henry Dill would keep the Tigers from turning those shots on goal into a lead.  It would be the Minutemen who got on the board first in the waning seconds of the period when Ray Pigozzi was able to put a loose puck in the crease behind Tiger goaltender Tyler Marble.

UMass picked up a couple more goals in the middle of the second when Shane Walsh continued his Friday production from the end of last season to make it 2-0 followed by Plevy picking up his first goal of the night a couple minutes later on the power play.  The first three goals for UMass all came about from the forwards attacking the net and being in position to make the most of second chances and loose pucks.

After a Tiger goal on the power play Plevy would pick up his second goal near the end of the second while UMass was on the power play, the goal coming off a nice pass across the top of the crease from Dennis Kravchenko.  Plevy’s third goal of the night, again on the power play, would come in the opening minute of the third, giving UMass a 5-1 lead, on a solo rush in on Marble.  UMass would end up taking four penalties in the 3rd period, including a couple majors by Patrick Lee and Shane Walsh, that allowed CC to take back some momentum and get a couple goals, narrowing the lead to 5-3.  But those would end up being the only scoring for the Tigers of the period as Dill was able to turn away most of the barrage of 19 shots faced during the 3rd.  Kravchenko would seal the victory with an empty net goal.

While Friday’s victory was one where UMass got out to the early lead and methodically built it up, Saturday’s was very different.  While Friday featured a goaltending matchup of teams’ two returners with Dill and Marble, it was time for freshemen Nic Renyard and Jacob Nehma to duel the following night.  And for the first period, duel they did with the pair turning away all shots faced.  The second period would belong to the Tigers though as a couple power play goals resulted in a 2-0 lead for CC.  They’d add an even strength goal in the closing minutes of the period and the Tigers would take a 3-0 lead into the locker room after outshooting UMass 19-8 in the second stanza.

Just 28 seconds in though Walsh would trade in the Mr Friday Night moniker and expand his clutch play into Saturdays.  A Walsh slapshot in the opening seconds of the third period would finally put UMass on the board.  Just under two minutes later with the Minutemen on the power play Walsh would make a long cross ice pass and find Steven Iacobellis who wristed it past Nehma to cut the lead to 1.  18 seconds after that Walsh would be on the receiving end of a nice setup by Pigozzi and got the one-timer goal to tie the game at 3.

At the other end Nic Renyard would stop all shots taken by the Tigers during the period.  Then, with 3:07 left in the game Friday night’s hero, Austin Plevy, would put home a Callum Fryer rebound to bring UMass all the way back from being down 3-0 at the start of the period to being up 4-3 with just a few minutes to go.  Renyard would make 5 of his 20 third period saves in those final moments to seal the amazing come from behind victory.  Considering how many late leads that the team gave up last season, the win could be huge in establishing confidence right from the get go.

Going into the season there were a number of key questions surrounding this team and most, if not all, were answered positively over the weekend.  First, would the newcomers be able to contribute right away to help make up for the offense lost from last year’s squad?  Plevy’s four goals over the weekend shows that, yes, it looks like UMass will be able to get production from this class and won’t have to wait long to do so.  Plevy is the first UMass freshman since 2008 to score a hat trick and perhaps the only one in program history to do so in his collegiate debut.  Another key question in the offseason was whether the goalscoring we saw from Shane Walsh in the second half of last season would continue into this year.  Obviously his 3 goals is an early indication that his second semester play last year was not a fluke.  And the third question answer was whether UMass could get improvement in net.  Both goaltenders did well on the weekend.  Dill stopped 39 shots on Friday while Renyard had 45 saves and even notched an assist in his debut.  Their save percentages on the weekend were .929 for Dill and .938 for Renyard.  There’s a lot of hockey left, but I don’t think you could ask for much more out of the young netminders to start the season.

As I mentioned earlier in the week I really liked this matchup to start the season for UMass.  The team they were facing had very similar challenges to them.  They’re both coming off very disappointing seasons where they gave up a lot of goals.  They both were picked last in their respective conferences.  And they’re both very young.  In fact Friday’s opener featured 9 freshmen dressed for each side.  So despite looking like a pretty even matchup on paper, it was UMass who went into Colorado Springs and got two wins in two very different ways.  I don’t think fans should put two much into these wins, since it’s unlikely CC will end up being a top team in the NCHC this season.  But, I think the victories will be very important to help UMass build confidence that it can win on the road and can overcome some tough circumstances, be it some penalty trouble or a late deficit.  UMass has a good chance to start the season 3-0 with Sacred Heart coming to town this Friday to kick off Homecoming Weekend.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game (Friday) – Austin Plevy
Both of the POTG picks were easy ones.  Obviously scoring the hat trick in your collegiate debut was huge.  Two games, four goals, one assist and two game-winners for Plevy to kick off his UMass career.  Wow.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game (Saturday) – Shane Walsh
It looks like the Mr Friday Night nickname will have to be retired.  Though he did great on Friday, scoring a key goal, the heroics of the 3 minute span to start the third period on Saturday were amazing.  A lot has been made of the fact that UMass has very few upperclassmen this year.  To have one of its only two seniors put the team on his back for that stretch to give them a chance to win was extremely important.  It was also a good start for Walsh to prove that he truly is capable of being a top scorer in this league all season long.

Shane Walsh – photo by Thom Kendall/UMass Athletics

Friday’s recap and box score from UMass Athletics.

Saturday’s recap and box score From UMass Athletics.

Here’s Friday game story from the Colorado Springs Gazette.  And here’s their recap from Saturday’s game.

The Collegian posted a recap of Friday’s win over the weekend.

USCHO highlighted Plevy’s play in their weekend recap blog.

The two UMass alums in the Bruins organization had very different days todays.  After struggling in his first two games, Matt Irwin was placed on waivers.  If he clears he could end up in Providence.  Meanwhile the Providence Bruins played a game today where Frank Vatrano scored FOUR goals.  It’s going to be tough for the Bruins not to give him a call-up if he continues to play like that.

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2 Comments

  1. umassattack

     /  October 12, 2015

    It is great to see a good start for a change from the Minuteman hockey team. Decent scoring, contributions from freshman, decent goal-tending, a good come back, all on the road against a team in hockey country with a winning history, thought not last year.
    To many penalties taken by the Minutemen and giving up to many shots will not fare well against the better teams in HE, but being a young team with (19) Sophomores and freshman comes with growing pains.
    Hopefully Sacred Heart is not taken lightly in the home opener. This week-end Sacred Heart did tie Union College 1-1 on the road the night before Union knocked off #3 BU. Sacred Heart also came on strong in the second half of the Atlantic Hockey season last year taking points in 10 of their final 14 games of which they only lost four games.

    Continued success to the Massattack

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anonymous

     /  October 12, 2015

    plevy is cold blooded….umass needs to send a message friday….come out and bury them…period end of story…GO UMASS!

    Liked by 1 person

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