TROY, N.Y. — If the snow in Buffalo didn’t slow down Niagara, the UMass-Amherst Minutemen sure did.
In a game where the Minutemen went out to an early lead and two goaltenders shut down the Purple Eagles, there wasn’t much energy spent as the Minutemen set themselves up for the championship game of the Rensselaer/HSBC Holiday Hockey Tournament with a 4-0 win.
Toni Soderholm scored first for UMass, tucking away a two-on-none in the first period as he received the puck from Martin Miljko; then Nick Kuiper blasted one from the point in the second past Niagara goalie Ryan MacNeil to make it 2-0.
Later in the period Greg Mauldin took a soft shot that eluded MacNeil, and in the third Matt Walsh put in a rebound of a puck that was bouncing in the crease to make it 4-0.
“I thought we moved the puck very well and we skated okay,” said UMass head coach Don “Toot” Cahoon. “We were gasping a little bit — you can’t take that many days off and be in great shape. I was happy with that type of effort considering the layoff.
“We played off them in the middle of the rink a little bit and they brought the puck to us. Our guys were patient in that regard and we got some good breaks and scoring opportunities.”
With the Minutemen up comfortably, goalie Mike Johnson was replaced by Tim Warner 8:01 short of setting a school mark for shutouts by a goaltender.
Cahoon said the change was for the good of the team.
“To be honest with you, I would certainly take that as a secondary consideration, and Mike knows he’s going to get the lion’s share of ice. [But] it’s important that I give a good young goalie an opportunity to play some minutes,” Cahoon said. “There was no intent there.”
Niagara (12-8-0) was without the services of starting goaltender Rob Bonk, whose groin injury gave MacNeil the start, only his third game.
The game was odd in that only three penalties were called — all against UMA.
“It was a good prep skating-wise and it got us back into competition,” said Cahoon. “We didn’t get to kill penalties a lot and we didn’t get a power play, and it will be interesting to see what the power play will be like tomorrow.”
The Purple Eagles will take on Quinnipiac in the consolation game Saturday, while the Minutemen (7-10-0) will play host Rensselaer in the championship.