AMHERST, Mass. — With UMass-Amherst threatening to overcome an early Boston University lead, Terrier captain Mike Pandolfo banged in the game-winner on the power play with just 25 seconds remaining in the second period, bolstering the visiting Terriers to a 5-2 win.
Three of four UMass penalty killers were caught in the upper half of the zone as Bryan Miller fired a shot that goalie Mike Johnson deflected right onto the stick of Pandolfo for a 3-2 Terrier lead.
Prior to the power-play tally the Minutemen were in complete control of the momentum. Horvath’s top-circle slapshot had tied the game, while a Tim Vitek power-play goal just three minutes earlier had sliced the BU lead in half.
Defenseman Nick Kuiper controlled the puck at the point before weaving in on net and finding a camped Vitek on the far side of the crease to make the score 2-1.
“We made eye contact earlier,” Vitek said. “He skated in on goal and just put it through traffic and I stuffed it in.”
Despite being outshot 11-8 in the middle frame, UMass controlled play and had the better scoring chances for the better part of the period.
“We gave them opportunity after opportunity,” Terrier coach Jack Parker said. “I’m just glad we got the ‘W’.”
But what looked like a potential landslide was suddenly leveled when sophomore Scott Horvath fired home the equalizer with under eight minutes remaining in the second.
It was the Terriers’ dominance at the beginning and end of the second period that fueled the win and prevented another UMass comeback. Gregg Johnson netted a power-play goal just two minutes into the stanza to give BU a 2-0 lead.
“There was just a scrum in the corner,” Johnson said. “I got the puck and I just fired it on net. I got hit so I didn’t even see I it went in.”
What he didn’t see is his blazing snap shot find its way through the UMass keeper’s five hole. Johnson’s marker, coupled with Pandolfo’s late goal simply sucked the wind out of a Minuteman squad that seemed in control of its own destiny.
The third period was a wash as the Terriers got a goal from Frantisek Skladany and an empty-netter by Pandolfo to cause a mass exodus to the parking lot. Despite BU’s convincing finish on the scoresheet, the Minutemen took a 9-6 shot advantage and in the final frame.”
“In the first period we dominated territorially,” Parker said. “But after the fourth goal we just forgot how to play hockey. I thought we stunk.”
UMass’ demise came by way of the penalty. Although the Terriers were only able to capitalize on one of nine power-play opportunities, the time spent in the box proved costly for the Minutemen, as both a momentum killer and an offensive deterrent.
“We took four bad penalties in the third period and then we just self-destruct,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said. “And these are older kids who should know better taking these penalties.”
Pandolfo led all scorers in the game with two goals and an assist. Sean Fields made 21 saves for his seventh win of the year while Johnson stopped 23 shots in the loss.
The two teams square off again on Sunday at Walter Brown Arena in Boston.