UMass snaps 9-game losing streak with 4-3 OT win over AIC

Last modified: Sunday, February 21, 2016

SPRINGFIELD — The UMass coaches and players couldn’t decide if there was more relief or celebration in their locker room following Tuesday’s 4-3 overtime win over American International at the MassMutual Center.

After over a month of frustration, any combination of both was plenty welcome for the Minutemen, who let a two-goal lead get away before escaping in overtime.

“There’s a blend” of relief and happiness, UMass coach John Micheletto said. “Obviously you want so badly for good things to happen for your guys when you’re in the trenches with them.”

His players agreed.

“There was a little bit of relief,” said Ben Gallacher, who scored the game-winner. “It was happiness with a side of relief. It was obviously a big win for us.”

Gallacher’s goal with 1 minute, 17 seconds left in overtime snapped UMass’ nine-game losing streak. The win was the Minutemen’s first since beating Army, 2-1, in overtime on Jan. 2.

Shane Walsh had two chances to score the winner. Patrick Lee fed him in the slot. Walsh misfired on his initial one-timer and then Alex Murray (39 saves) stopped his second chance. But the rebound bounced to Gallacher, who fired it home for the win.

“We got ourselves into a tight spot late in the game (and) we found a way to get out of it,” Micheletto said. “That’s really important.”

UMass hosts Northeastern, Friday at 8:30 p.m. The teams play again in Boston at 7 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s nice to get a win for sure and hopefully head into this weekend with some momentum,” Walsh said. “This is a big weekend coming up against Northeastern, which is a team we can beat.”

The matchup was UMass’ last nonconference game of the year and a home game for AIC, which normally plays at the Olympia Ice Center in West Springfield.

The Minutemen looked to be in trouble early as the first period continued to be problematic. They gave up the first goal for the eighth time in the last 10 games. UMass has been outscored 21-6 in the first period since the start of the losing streak.

UMass junior center Steven Iacobellis turned the puck over in the UMass zone. Yellow Jackets center Shawn McBride snared the puck along the right-wing boards and centered to Chris Porter, who snapped it past freshman goalie Nic Renyard to give AIC a 1-0 lead with 8:16 left in the opening period.

AIC had a chance to extend its edge and perhaps psychologically batter the struggling Minutemen, but Renyard (30 saves) turned back Trevor Cope and then Bryant Christian on good scoring chances 20 seconds apart near the 12-minute mark to keep UMass within striking distance.

Joseph Widmar had zero goals in his first 23 games for UMass, but he has two in his last two games, including the tying goal in the second period Tuesday. He cycled out of the left-wing corner and laser-beamed the puck by Murray in the top-right corner of the net with 6:59 left in the second.

Walsh put the Minutemen ahead 1:24 later. Dennis Kravchenko won the faceoff from the right-wing circle and drew the puck directly to Walsh. The senior had started his wind up before the puck was even dropped and he sizzled it past Murray to make it 2-1.

The lead seemed to take a load off UMass’ shoulders as the offense came to life. It extended its lead to 3-1 on a tic-tac-toe power-play goal. Camped behind the net, Ray Pigozzi fed the puck to the right-wing boards where Lee one-touched it through traffic to Austin Plevy on the far edge of the left-wing circle.

The freshman’s shot got to the open side of the net faster than Murray did to make it 3-1 after the second.

AIC cut it to 3-2 with 7:18 remaining on Johno May’s tough-angle shot from the left side of the net. The Yellow Jackets tied it on a partial break-in with 3:05 left in the third period. AIC’s Jackson Dudley slid the puck to Johnny Mueller to tie the game and force overtime.

“It was a good win,” Micheletto said. “We’ll take the victory and appreciate a lot of the good things we did here. We’ll obviously learn from our third period. Hopefully we’ll handle a two-goal lead in the third period, better than we did tonight.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at


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