“Best tie ever”. That’s what Friday night’s game had a lot of fans saying as they left the Mullins Center. It’s rare for fanbases to get really excited for a tie, but that’s what happens when your team comes back from a five goal deficit and, behind four 3rd period goals, gains a league point with a 6-6 result against New Hampshire. The previous three games had been marked by tremendous individual efforts, but Friday’s heroics were a complete team effort. The six goals were scored by six different players and 16 different Minutemen registered a point on the night.
New Hampshire would get on the board first when Dan Correale scored his first of three goals just 1:13 in. But The Minutemen would answer quickly when Ryan Badger scored his first collegiate goal three minutes later on a nice feed from Keith Burchett on a play started by some good forechecking by Patrick Lee. The teams would battle a bit for the rest of the opening period but the momentum swung dramatically when UNH scored two goals 17 seconds apart, the 2nd on the power play, in the closing minutes of the period.
UNH would score four minutes into the second to make it 4-1 and then just under 12 minutes into the middle stanza Correale would finish his hat trick to extend the lead to 5-1. With just over five minutes left in the second UNH would take the 6-1 lead and coach John Micheletto would finally pull starting goaltender Henry Dill after giving up 6 goals on 17 shots. Dill struggled in net and there were at least two glaring goals that he likely should’ve had. But at the same time he wasn’t getting a ton of help in front of him two as two other goals came directly off bad turnovers in front of him by a couple of the freshman defensemen. Either way, taking Dill out and bringing in Nic Renyard, was exactly the spark the team needed.
It didn’t take long to get the comeback started as Ray Pigozzi scored just a minute and a half after the change in net. The Minutemen would finish the second period down 6-2 though and any prospect of a third period comeback seemed improbable. It would be an unlikely Minuteman to kick off the dramatic third period when Anthony Petrella, who scored just one goal all of last season, rushed the net and got the puck past UNH goalie Danny Tirone. Dennis Kravchenko would make it 6-4 with an impressive snipe of a goal from between the circles that went over Tirone’s shoulders. Shane Walsh of course had to be a part of this Friday night comeback and it was his goal with just over five minutes left in the third that pulled the Minutemen within one. And with 2:40 to go in the game Maddison Smiley, who I thought had one of his best games at forward, wristed a shot towards the net that was tipped in by Dominic Trento. The comeback was complete and the teams were tied at six apiece.
UMass would have a couple of really good chances to get the win in the final minutes and in overtime, but couldn’t quite pull off the really unbelievable and grab a win. Still, because of how they did it, this was a pretty satisfying tie. UMass hadn’t been playing really poorly even as they were on their way to being down 6-1. They had been controlling the puck at a good rate during that time and it really was just some off goaltending and a couple of key defensive breakdowns that put them in the hole. But once that goaltending switch was made UMass flat out dominated the rest of the game. The Minutemen would score 5 goals on 15 shots after the change in net. Nic Renyard on the other hand would face just 8 shots total in his time, including just 3 total in the third. And 2 of those 3 come on UNH power plays.
Nothing illustrates the improvement UMass has made over last season more than the fact that they’ve outscored opponents 13-2 in the third period. Whereas last season saw the team fold during many instances late in the game, so far this season the team plays some of its best hockey late. And Friday showed that it’s not just a handful of skill players that’s responsible for that improvement. It really was a total team effort, offensively, defensively, and in net, that led to the comeback tie. It’s still astounding to think 16 different players accounted for the 17 points in the game. Only Dennis Kravchenko with a goal and an assist had a multiple point night. There will obviously be a lot to work on in the coming week as the staff breaks down video from the game and looks to correct the mistakes that led the big deficit in the first place. But one area they won’t need to address is the team mentality, which seems to be in a much better place than it was last season. Defensive coverage and other issues can be addressed but the confidence the team has in themselves gained could be worth almost as much as the point gained in the Hockey East standings in the long run.
Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Dominic Trento
A lot of players are deserving of recognition for their work Friday. Kravechenko for his multiple point night and laser goal. Renyard for his perfect play to give the Minutemen a chance to comeback. But it was Trento planting himself in front of the net and having the skill to deflect a shot coming through traffic past Tirone that was the play of the game and therefore he’s my player of the game.
photo: Thom Kendall/UMass Athletics
Per hockey SID Jillian Jakuba Friday’s game was a historic one:
Trento says that deflection play is something he and the team works on regularly in the Gazette’s recap of the game.