It wasn’t pretty but the Massachusetts hockey team got the monkey off their back and picked up their first win in the last 10 games with a 4-3 victory over AIC at the MassMutual Center in Springfield on Tuesday. It was a bit of a back and forth affair with the Yellow Jackets jumping out to a 1-0 lead and UMass scoring three quick goals to bring a two goal lead into the third period. But AIC would mount a comeback and send the game to overtime tied at three apiece. Ultimately it would be senior Ben Gallacher scoring his first goal since December of 2014 in the extra frame to get UMass its 8th win of the season.
UMass allowed their opponent to score the first goal for the 7th time in their last 8 games when AIC’s Chris Porter scored 11:45 into the first period. UMass would hold a slight edge for first period shots 12-11, but the 11 shots allowed was concerning considering AIC only averages 26 shots a game. The Minutemen would take control of the game however 13 minutes into the middle period when Joe Widmar, coming off his first collegiate goal last weekend, made it two goals in two games. Shane Walsh would break out of a six game goalless streak when he scored less than a minute and a half later. And Austin Plevy would put the Minutemen fully in the driver’s seat with a power play goal a little over two minutes after Walsh. For Plevy it was his third goal in the last five games.
The final period would belong to the Yellow Jackets however as they’d cut the UMass lead to one goal with a Johno May goal 12:42 in. With just over three minutes left in the third AIC’s Johnny Mueller would tie the game. The game would remain scoreless through the rest of regulation and UMass would be able to withstand a couple AIC chances early in overtime. But ultimately Gallacher would put a Walsh rebound behind Yellow Jacket goaltender Alex Murray, who played extremely well, to give UMass its first win since an overtime win over Army to start 2016
There are a few positives to take from the game, beyond just the fact that they won. The team generated a season high 43 shots, including 7 in the overtime to assure the win. Every UMass skater registered at least one shot on net. The faceoff stats from the game were simply incredible. UMass won 50 faceoffs to AIC’s 21. Captain Steven Iacobellis won 16 of 22 faceoff chances. Dennis Kravchenko won 13 of 21 chances while Ryan Badger was successful on 10 of his 14 tries. Even Keith Burchett was 8 for 11 in the faceoff circle.
There are still some areas to be concerned about. UMass giving up a two goal lead with less than 8 minutes to go in the game is something they’ll have to avoid in the future, especially since it comes just a few games after giving up four third period goals to UVM in a loss. The 33 shots allowed to AIC is too many and well over their average, especially considering the Yellow Jackets had only one power play on the night. It’s the third most shots on goal generated in a game by AIC this season.
The Minutemen have two extremely important games this weekend against Hockey East foe Northeastern and the win over AIC can help UMass in the task to get some league points. The losing streak is no longer something hanging over their heads as a distraction and they should be able to better concentrate on what’s ahead. They need at minimum three points over their last four Hockey East games and to do so they’ll need some momentum. Maybe the drama of the overtime win can be the beginning of that momentum. At the very least the AIC win should give the team a little self-confidence. A loss to a lower end Atlantic Hockey team would’ve been a big hit to the team ahead of this stretch. Instead they’ll be looking to create a win streak.
Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Ben Gallacher
Not only did Gallacher get the game winning goal, but he had a career high eight shots on goal. He also had two blocked shots and finished a +2% on the night.
The team said the win was a mix of relief and happiness in the recap in the Gazette.
The Collegian has their game story on the win.
Masslive had a lot of coverage of the game between the area’s two DI teams. Dan Malone had his game story while Annie Maroon had the AIC and local angle about the chance to face UMass. Malone also had this piece on AIC coach Gary Wright enjoying the series with the other WMass team. Personally I have no problem with the two teams playing every year, even if the matchup does kind of present a no-win situation for the Minutemen. The announced attendance of 742 at the MassMutual Center shows that having the game there on a random Tuesday in February probably won’t work, especially when the teams have 12 wins combined. But maybe a deal with two games at the Mullins Center and a weekend game at MassMutual on a three year basis could work well.
The Collegian also had this story on Iacobellis and Plevy who first played as teammates as kids in British Columbia.
The Gazette had a story on UMass’ trip to Ireland next season.
SBN College Hockey breaks down the Hockey East race with just a few weeks left on the regular season.
There are two links to share regarding the future of Michletto as coach of the UMass team.
The first was this piece in the Collegian about the disappointing seasons by all three of the schoo’s major winter programs; men’s and women’s basketball and hockey. Athletic Director Ryan Bamford says the following, “Obviously the basketballs and hockey are the three that people look at closely and we are not where we want to be in our results. I’m not going to shy away from that. We have high expectations for those three teams. They are really well funded compared to their peers and I think we have the opportunity to be competitive to win games in all three of those sports. We need to do better.” He also says that any evaluation of the status of the coaches will take place following the season.
College Hockey News had this blog post regarding random topics, one of which being coaches on the hot seat. Of Micheletto managing editor Adam Wodon writes, “Something isn’t right at UMass. It can’t necessarily all be pinned on Micheletto, but he may take the fall. UMass is a school where it should be possible to win. It hasn’t really done so since Jonathan Quick left.” I agree completely. I think Bamford is doing his best to address problems surrounding the hockey program and department as a whole. But it’s obvious that coaching is also a significant detriment to UMass hockey that must be addressed.