UMass loses early lead, falls to UConn in shootout

  • UMass coach Greg Carvel talks with his team during Friday’s game against UConn at the Mullins Center. UMass won 5-1. On Saturday, the team’s tied 2-2 at UConn, but the Huskies won 2-1 in a shootout. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/21/2020 9:46:34 PM
Modified: 11/21/2020 9:46:19 PM

Two strong starts led to two different outcomes for the seventh-ranked UMass ice hockey team.

The Minutemen scored within the first six minutes of both games against UConn in their season-opening series. They followed through with goals in the second and third periods of Friday’s win at the Mullins Center. Saturday’s second half of the home-and-home in Storrs, Connecticut, followed a different script.

UMass jumped out to a quick, two-goal lead Saturday, but the Huskies rallied in the third period and won Hockey East’s first shootout, 2-1. The game is in the record books as a 2-2 tie since at the moment it counts as a nonconference game, but the shootout occurred in case those games count toward the Hockey East standings.

Hockey East built in multiple weekends throughout the season that have games between conference teams scheduled, but the league is counting them as nonconference games and using those windows as potential dates to move series postponed by COVID-19. The conference set up this year as a full round-robin with each team facing every other team twice. UMass (1-0-1) was supposed to play two games in Maine to open the season, but it instead faced UConn (0-1-1) after Maine delayed its return to play.

The shootout, or overtime for that matter, seemed far from the realm of possibility after the first 13 minutes. Matt Kessel, a St. Louis Blues draft pick, opened the scoring 3 minutes, 25 seconds into the game on the power play. Bobby Trivigno and Oliver Chau assisted. It was UMass’ third power-play goal of the two-game series after going 2-of-6 on the man advantage Friday.

Philip Lagunov made it 2-0 at the 12:40 mark from Garrett Wait and Zac Jones.

“(Friday) UMass came out and punched us in the mouth. They did it again in the first period,” UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “It was almost a carbon copy of what happened last night they were completely outplaying us.”

The Minutemen took advantage of the Olympic-sized ice sheet at Mullins and played in space Friday, tacking on three third-period goals. UConn’s standard-size rink didn’t allow UMass the same space as the game continued. Creating chances wasn’t the problem, finishing them was. The Minutemen finished with 36 shots. UConn goalie Tomas Vomacka just saved 34 of them.

That allowed the Huskies to hang around long enough to claw back into the game. Carter Turnbull cut the deficit in half 9:53 into the third period from Vladislav Firstov and Yan Kuznetsov. Two minutes later, the Minutemen fought off a 5-on-3 advantage after an Anthony Del Gaizo interference penalty at 11:15 then two tripping calls against Kessel and Cal Kiefiuk at 12:55.

“That was huge,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said.

UConn apparently needed fewer men than UMass, rather than more. The Huskies tied the game short-handed after Hudson Schandor went to the box for boarding in the last five minutes. Brian Rigali converted a breakaway from Cassidy Bowes with two minutes to knot the score at 2.

“The short-handed goal to tie the game was disarming,” Carvel said.

That triggered Hockey East’s first three-on-three overtime period. UMass dominated possession during the extra five minutes. The Minutemen outshot UConn 7-3 in the frame and barely allowed the Huskies into their zone, regularly rotating fresh bodies in by controlling the available space. But one rotation proved costly.

Colin Felix appeared to score a game-winning goal for UMass late in the OT when he hammered home a rebound, but Cavanaugh challenged it. After the review, it was waived off for two many men on the ice.

“I thought we had won in overtime,” Carvel said. “I guess the change wasn’t good enough.”

The Minutemen and goalie Filip Lindberg (35 saves) survived one last UConn rush to send the contest to Hockey East’s first shootout. UConn prevailed 2-1 after Kale Howarth beat Lindberg stick side to end it.

“Early in the year, you’re going to get craziness like that,” Carvel said.

Now the Minutemen have two games under their belts, a rarity in a Hockey East where the schedule has shifted consistently since the league announced its return date, and some time off to zone in. UMass was originally scheduled to host Vermont over the Thanksgiving weekend, but the Catamounts delayed the beginning of their winter seasons. That leaves New Hampshire on Dec. 4 as UMass’ next scheduled date.

UMass could land an opponent this weekend. During the broadcast Friday, the announcers said Hockey East was working to find the Minutemen an opponent.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.



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