×

UMass comeback falls short as Merrimack skates away to 4-2 win



Last modified: Friday, December 04, 2015
AMHERST — The UMass hockey team’s late comeback proved for naught.

Merrimack turned a Minuteman turnover midway through the third period into the winning goal and the Warriors left the Mullins Center with a 4-2 win Friday.

After a slow start, UMass briefly held momentum from the end of the second period to almost midway through the third as it erased a two-goal deficit.

Goalie Collin Delia, who’d stoned the Minutemen for most of the first two periods, finally cracked with 2 minutes, 28 seconds left in the second when Callum Fryer’s shot from the right point navigated its way through a screen to make it 2-1 after two periods. It was the freshman defenseman’s first collegiate goal.

The Minutemen had more jump in their legs to open the third than at any point before that and eventually capitalized.

Shane Walsh tied the game with a little good fortune on the power play. Dennis Kravchenko slid a centering pass to him in the left-wing faceoff circle. The puck rolled off the heel of his stick funny for a misfire, but the Merrimack defense instinctively reacted to a shot that never came, backing off slightly. The puck didn’t roll far and Walsh’s second shot found its way through the newly created screen with 15:42 left.

UMass’ momentum was short-lived. The Minutemen struggled to break out of the zone and Hampus Gustafsson stole the puck and fed Alfred Larsson, who picked the top-right corner over freshman goalie Nic Renyard’s shoulder for the go-ahead goal with 10:23 left. Micheletto absolved his goalie on that goal.

“We put him in a tough spot,” Micheletto said. “That’s a tough turnover at the point in the game.”

UMass nearly found the equalizer in the final minute with the goalie pulled, but Delia’s 29th save might have been his best. His left toe kicked out Ray Pigozzi’s bid with 20 seconds left.

“We kid around with our goaltenders,” said Marrimack coach Mark Dennehy, a former UMass assistant coach. “We tell them ‘they only have to make one save per game — the game winner.’ That turned out to be it.

Gustafsson sealed this with an empty-netter, 14 second later.

Renyard made 23 saves for UMass (6-3-1, 2-2-1 Hockey East), which is at Vermont at 2 p.m. Sunday. Delia had 29 stops for Merrimack (6-1-2, 2-1-2).

“We had some goals on our sticks and the kid made some fantastic saves,” Micheletto said. “If we buried one of those we probably feel better about the end result. In the second half of the second period, he had three looks where half the people in the building were probably already out of their seat for.”

UMass didn’t have the life in its legs early that has sparked it in earlier games. Jared Kolquist put Merrimack ahead 4:06 into the game. Almost one period later at 4:03 in the second, John Gustafsson snapped the puck through Renyard’s legs to make it 2-0.

The Minutemen couldn’t score on a 5-minute power play, the first two minutes of which were 5-on-3 early in the second period. While long penalty kills usually spark the team that had been down a man, the Minutemen seemed to play better after that, despite their power-play futility.

“We were slow to get to our game, particularly in the first,” Micheletto said. “We couldn’t get our feet moving in advance of the puck, which is necessary with the way they wanted to smother us.”

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