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Penalty kill helps UMass hockey defeat Vermont

JERREY ROBERTS
John Micheletto speaks Monday after being named new University of Massachusetts ice hockey head coach at the Mullins Center.

JERREY ROBERTS John Micheletto speaks Monday after being named new University of Massachusetts ice hockey head coach at the Mullins Center. Purchase photo reprints »

AMHERST — With the University of Massachusetts hockey team clinging to a one-goal lead early in the third period, defensemen Conor Allen and Joel Hanley were called for penalties 17 seconds apart giving Vermont a 5-on-3 power play for 1 minutes, 43 seconds.

Helped by a diving clear by Troy Power, UMass allowed just one shot on goal during the entire power play. The kill gave the Minutemen momentum as they held on for a 3-1 win over the Catamounts on Tuesday in the teams’ annual pre-Thanksgiving game at the Mullins Center.

Killing a 5-on-3 power play “is a momentum swing whether it’s in the first 10 minutes of a game or the last 20,” said UMass coach John Micheletto, who was an assistant coach at Vermont from 2003 until being hired at UMass this summer. “I thought our guys did a real nice job.”

While most of the students already departed for the holiday, the crowd of 2,336 combined with Vermont’s slow-down approach left the Mullins Center with less energy than usual. But after losing to Lowell 8-2 on Sunday, the Minutemen created their own inertia to carry the play throughout.

“That was huge. We needed that. We needed to bounce back. That’s a big Hockey East win for us,” junior forward Branden Gracel said. “The league is so tight. After a loss like that you have to bounce right back.”

Minuteman goalie Kevin Boyle made 24 saves for UMass (4-5-1, 3-5-1), which will host Quinnipiac, Saturday at 7 p.m.

“I thought it was a good win. They do a good job of slowing the tempo down and we’re all about tempo,” Micheletto said. “I give our guys a lot of credit. We were patient and took advantage of opportunities when they came to us. We pushed the pace as best we could. It was a real good response by our guys against a difficult opponent.”

UMass took a 1-0 lead just under six minutes into the game. Conor Sheary fed the puck to Conor Allen at the right point and the junior defensemen drove it through traffic past Catamount goalie Brody Hoffman.

Vermont (2-5-2, 2-5-2) tied the game with 8:40 left in the first when Anthony DeCenzo collected the rebound of a shot by Kyle Mountain in front of the net and tapped it past Boyle.

Gracel put the Minutemen back ahead 2:57 into the second period. He was late getting into the zone on a UMass break, but a Vermont defenseman’s clear attempt landed right on his stick. He faked a slap shot and then snapped it past Hoffman.

Gracel added an insurance goal in the third period, one-timing a perfect pass from Michael Pereira by Hoffman on a two on one. Gracel had a chance for the hat trick late after Vermont had pulled Hoffman, but he struck the puck at an awkward angle and it scooted wide.

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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