AMHERST, Mass. — Coming into tonight’s home contest against Northeastern, UMass-Amherst had scored just four goals in its last three games. In tonight’s Hockey East matchup, the Minutemen notched four goals in just under 13 minutes of play.
Thomas Pock’s top-shelf slapshot capped a 4-3 overtime win for UMass and a comeback the likes of which the Mullins Center has never seen.
“We’ve been playing hard for so long and getting nothing out of it,” Minuteman coach Don Cahoon said after the win. “It was a great comeback and the win is absolutely huge.”
Josh Hanson (two assists) sent Pock on a two-on-one with Craig MacDonald just over a minute into the extra session. NU goalie Keni Gibson played the pass and Pock took the opening and brought the home fans to their feet with UMass’ first overtime victory of the season.
“I saw that he left the near side open,” Pock said. “In a situation like that you can either go low to the blocker side or high. He went down and I knew I could shelf it.”
Jason Herriman’s second goal of the game at 6:51 of the third period gave the Huskies a 3-0 lead, but it also marked the end of NU’s scoring and the beginning of a UMass onslaught.
Scott Selig notched the other Husky goal, a power-play tally near the midway point of the first period.
Defenseman Kelly Sickavish finally got the Minutemen on the board with his first career goal. Freshman Justin Rafferty dug the puck out from a scrum behind the net and threaded a pass to Sickavish who postmarked a wrist shot for the upper corner.
Fellow blueliner Nick Kuiper made it a one-goal game just seven minutes later with a seeing-eye slapshot from just inside the blueline.
“It was a knuckler,” Kuiper said. “Those are the best types of shots. You just fire it and you don’t know where it’s going. I think he was screened on the play.”
The teams played to a stalemate for the next four minutes until defenseman-turned-center Toni Soderholm made a bid for the equalizer. Goaltender Mike Johnson started the play by catching the defense pinching.
“I caught the puck and I saw their defense coming forward,” Johnson said. “So I took a couple strides forward and tossed it to [Tim] Vitek.”
Vitek spotted Hanson in the neutral zone, and Hanson fed Soderholm on a one-on-one break. The senior captain gained the zone, cut back on the left faceoff circle, and fired a wrist shot into the upper portion of the net, tying the game at 3-3.
“That was a big-time shot,” Cahoon said. “Just to get himself into position for the shot was an accomplishment.”
The loss breaks the Huskies’ seven-game unbeaten streak in Hockey East. UMass on the other hand, snaps a 12-game winless streak in conference.
The Minutemen, a team already starved for goal scoring, had their two top scorers out of the line up. Greg Mauldin (bruised shoulder) and Tim Turner (bruised ankle) have combined for 18 goals and 36 points on the year.
Northeastern, a squad with a much more balanced attack, also had some big offensive shoes to fill with explosive forward Willie Levesque still on the shelf.
The Huskies opened the game with the ice tilted in their favor. Two breakaways and two power plays in the first period amounted to only one goal, as Mike Johnson made 11 saves (26 overall) to keep his team in it until the Minutemen could stage the comeback.
Gibson had only 14 stops in a rare struggle for the talented freshman.
UMass (8-17-1, 3-12-1 HEA) take the ice again next Friday against Boston College at the Mullins Center. Northeastern (13-10-3, 7-7-2 HEA) now looks forward to its opening-round Beanpot game against Harvard at the Fleetcenter.