UMass scores four power-play goals, skates past Michigan State
AMHERST — What a difference a weekend makes.
The University of Massachusetts completed a two-game Hockey East-Big Ten Challenge sweep of Michigan State Saturday, scoring four power-play goals en route to a 5-2 victory at the Mullins Center.
The Minutemen (2-2) used exceptional special teams play to overpower the Spartans in the second period, scoring four goals, including three with a man-advantage. Freshman Ray Pigozzi sparked the outburst, assisting on three tallies.
“For me, it seemed like everybody I gave it to, every shot they took kinda just went in,” Pigozzi said with a smile.
Efficiency in retrieving the puck translated directly into power-play opportunities, as the Minutemen moved the puck effectively throughout their eight power plays.
“We talked afterwards, particularly about some of the less sexy things about the power play,” UMass coach John Micheletto said. “Retrievals is a big focus for us on the power play. Repossessing the puck after you lose possession of it is critical.”
Pigozzi’s second line paced the Minutemen, as fellow freshman Steven Iacobellis found the back of the net twice and Troy Power contributed a goal and two assists.
Iacobellis opened the floodgates for UMass 10 minutes, 28 seconds into the second period, beating Spartans (0-2) goaltender Will Yanakeff to his short side for his third goal of the season to make it 3-2. The play developed after Pigozzi won a puck battle behind the net and found Iacobellis, who was standing alone in front of Yanakeff.
“One of (Pigozzi’s) greatest strengths is his vision and his ability to slow the play down,” Micheletto said. “He has that ability to hold and look things off and sort through his options and find plays.”
Adam Phillips continued the scoring for the Minutemen just three minutes later, finishing a one-timer from the right side to make it 4-2. It was UMass’ second power-play goal of the night and Phillips’ first goal of the season.
Power rounded out the scoring in the second period, finding the back of the net on yet another power play to make it 5-2 UMass after two periods.
“This weekend we bared down and we finished our opportunities,” Power said.
The Minutemen trailed 2-1 after the first period. The Spartans’ aggressive start didn’t sit well on the UMass bench.
“The bench wasn’t a frustrating spot to be, but it wasn’t a very positive bench,” Power said. “We were making mistakes in the first period, we were kinda dead, it was quiet.”
Power said a strong start in the second period by the first line of Conor Sheary, Michael Pereira and Branden Gracel as a momentum booster.
“When you get lines rolling on top of each other like that, the bench gets loud, everyone becomes positive, everyone is awake on the bench and that translates on the ice,” he said.
Joel Hanley’s power-play goal 7:28 into the second period knotted the game at 2-2.
UMass will begin a weekend series at Maine on Friday at 8 p.m. Friday’s game will be broadcast on NBC Sports.