Power play fails UMass in 5-3 loss to Denver

Last modified: Friday, January 03, 2014
AMHERST — Entering the third period down a goal, the University of Massachusetts had a golden opportunity to tie the game with a two-man advantage followed by three minutes of power play on an unreleasable major penalty.

But No. 17-ranked Denver killed the penalties and controlled the third period as the Minutemen fell 5-3, Tuesday at the Mullins Center.

“We did a lot of nice things,” UMass coach John Micheletto said. “It would have been nice to crack the code on the power play early in the third. Despite the handful of grade-A looks that we had, we weren’t able to bang one home.”

The weather and lack of students made for an almost empty arena as the attendance was 428. UMass announced that unused tickets for Tuesday’s game would be honored at future games because of the snowstorm.

The game was the final contest before a 12-day holiday break for UMass (6-12-2), which had a three-game winning streak snapped. The Minutemen will be back in action on Dec. 29 against Quinnipiac at 4 p.m. in the first game of the UConn Hockey Classic.

UMass’ power play to start the third was rooted in a sequence at the end of the second. After Denver goalie Sam Brittain (20 saves) thwarted Conor Sheary’s bid on a breakaway with 6 seconds left, Denver’s Josiah Didier was called for a five-minute roughing major and was ejected from the game. On top of that, Joey LeLeggia was assessed a slashing minor giving UMass a 5-on-3 for two minutes plus the remaining three minutes of the major trailing 3-2.

But the Minutemen couldn’t score on either, as the penalty kill seemed to inspire the Pioneers.

“It was huge,” Denver coach Jim Montgomery said. “You could feel the energy on our bench after we killed the 5-on-3. Our penalty kill has been excellent all year. We have a lot of confidence in it. We have a great goaltender that gives us a lot of confidence in the penalty kill.”

The Pioneers added two insurance goals late. Trevor Moore scored on a breakaway and Daniel Doremus beat UMass goalie Steve Mastalerz (13 saves) exactly a minute later to put Denver (10-6-3) up 5-2 with 4:51 remaining.

Troy Power got one goal back with 4:30 left, but UMass couldn’t climb out of the hole.

Denver got on the board first 80 seconds into the game when Gabe Levin took Grant Arnold’s centering pass in the slot and ripped it by Mastalerz.

Power tied the game with a power-play goal with 10:22 left in the first. He collected Adam Phillips’ pass at the top of the left-wing faceoff circle and snapped it by Brittain.

After Denver scored the first two goals of the second period, Mastalerz kept the game from getting out of reach when he stoned Moore on a breakaway and Ty Loney on the rebound with 8:18 left to keep UMass’ deficit at 3-1.

The play gave the Minutemen momentum and five minutes later, Sheary turned it into a goal. Off a Michael Periera pass, Sheary ripped a shot past Brittain to make it 3-2 with 3:16 left in the second setting up the third.

Despite Tuesday’s loss, Micheletto was hopeful that his team’s strong recent play would be a catalyst heading into the second half of the season.

“I like where we’re at right now on this last little run,” he said. “I’m hoping that despite the break happening, we’re able to springboard these last five efforts into the second half.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage