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UMass goalie Steve Mastalerz gives Minutemen a boost

University of Massachusetts goalie Steve Mastalerz is back on the ice for the Minutemen. After missing some time in November and December with a knee injury, Mastalerz's return has giving the team a boost.

University of Massachusetts goalie Steve Mastalerz is back on the ice for the Minutemen. After missing some time in November and December with a knee injury, Mastalerz's return has giving the team a boost. Purchase photo reprints »

AMHERST — Steve Mastalerz didn’t know when he would start another game.

Coming off a knee injury that sidelined him for most of November and all of December, the University of Massachusetts hockey team’s sophomore goalie just tried to get healthy enough and sharp enough that when coach John Micheletto called his number he’d be prepared.

“I just kept telling myself to be ready,” Mastalerz said.

When Kevin Boyle struggled in the Minutemen’s 5-4 loss to Providence on Jan. 11, Micheletto called on the North Andover native the following night. He was ready, showing no signs of layoff, rust or mobility problems from his knee injury.

The Minutemen (8-11-2) lost to Providence, but not because of Mastalerz, who made 22 saves in the 2-0 defeat and earned him the start last Friday at Boston College.

He was even better in Chestnut Hill, keeping the Minutemen in the game early. Several of his 14 first-period saves were outstanding helping UMass survive four BC power plays, including a lengthy two-man advantage in the period. The offense took over after that as the Minutemen beat the then-No. 2 Eagles 5-2.

“He’s given us an opportunity to win both nights he’s been in. That’s usually the barometer we have for the goaltenders,” Micheletto said. “Especially early against Boston College with the 5-on-3 power plays they were given, he made a couple of critical saves early that really bolstered us.”

Junior defenseman Joel Hanley said Mastalerz’s strong outing in goal energized the rest of the team.

“We know the way he can play. He’s very athletic and he’ll make that second save. He’s been great for us. He’s a big reason we’ve been doing well lately,” Hanley said. “Having a goaltender play like that is huge. They can win you games even when you don’t play your best as a team. They can be your best penalty killer too. Having a good goalie at this time of year is very big. Steve has been playing well and we’re very happy for him.”

Micheletto hoped Mastalerz’s re-emergence would help his goalies raise their games for the stretch run. Boyle (7-7-2, 2.60 goals against) played very well early in the season and remains very much in the mix. Boyle started 15 of the last 16 games, with Jeff Teglia getting the nod in one.

“Having two or three guys that can push each other as well as spell each other is not a bad thing,” Micheletto said. “Ultimately, if you look at it historically, there has been a guy that’s emerged that the team has ridden coming down the stretch, but in the meantime, I’m hopeful that all three of those guys push each other so we can keep them all fresh.”

With two games at Vermont (Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m.), Mastalerz said he’s put the BC game in the rearview mirror.

“I’m just taking one game at a time. In these last couple of games I thought I played pretty well,” he said. “I’ve got to move on to the next one. We’ve got a big game Friday night so I’m focusing on that right now.”

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

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